#1002: “My boyfriend doesn’t believe in my dreams.”

Dear Captain Awkward,

What do you do if your significant other thinks that you will go no where with your dream?

My boyfriend is a well known, local photographer. He does mainly fashion photo-shoots and is honestly, very talented at what he does.

I’m newly, discovering modeling. I had tried it before when I was younger; but, it didn’t workout since I had acne. I didn’t get my face cleared until I was almost 30 (ancient in modeling years). But I enjoy my hobby. I have discovered this new passion of mine. Walking on the runway feels great and I get a lot of compliments on my walk! People want to book me for shows, work with me in photos and I even try their new designs! Its very exciting.

I even came up with a concept for a photo-shoot. I made a head-piece, found a makeup artist, made sure to communicate how I want the lighting and am going to see my idea come into fruition. I would have never believed, I could bring that many people together to make an image. But, I can!

It all sounds great… but, my boyfriend doesn’t believe I’ll go anywhere. He’s made so many comments about the photos we’ve done together. He’s literally told me, “You’re not Naomi Campbell,” and he’s even tried to hide a photo-shoot he was doing with a couple of models from California… saying, “You would only be jealous of their careers.” And then invited me to hold the lights.

I have no idea what to do. I told him, I’m not jealous of anyone, but the fact that he got nervous about telling me was odd. I honestly, thought it was because he was going to flirt with them; not because “You’ll be jealous of their careers.”

I’m not sure where he would get a comment like that in the first place? And I’m tired of him trying to put me down with his harsh criticism. He told me, he would say things like that, because he works in a an industry where its normal for people to say those things… However, he’s had a TON of other photo-shoots and has never told anyone else these things? I guess, I don’t understand.

I know, he doesn’t believe I will walk in New York Fashion Week. He’s reminded me that I’m 5’7″, on a daily basis, saying he’s just giving me a “Realistic perspective.” But I never asked him. I also, didn’t even have that as a goal… I just, honestly like what I’m doing. Its inspired me to create things, to try new adventures and meet new people.

My heart is kind of broken because he’s the one person, I thought, would believe in me. Or at least, be proud of me…. instead, all I get is “You’re not Naomi Campbell.”

I told him he could no longer take my photos. We can no longer work together. And I have no time to doubt myself. I work a full-time day job. I have shows booked until November and I want to plan more things! There should be no time wasted on being self-conscious.

We have talked about this issue a lot over the last few days and we worked out some resolutions we are both happy with; along with boundaries of not working together anymore…

But there is still this pain, knowing that he doesn’t believe I can do this. I tell myself, I never needed anyone before, why would I still want his approval?

What should I do?

Half of me, thinks that we can still be together despite this. Because I am quite old, it’s too late to walk the New York runways. I wouldn’t even qualify for them at my height. He has a point…

But there is that other part of me, that still wants to continue. That never wants to place a ceiling on my passion… And that part, is extremely hurt, the love of my life wants to give me a “reality check.”

Thanks in Advance,

The Independent Model

Dear Independent Model,

If you want to talk “reality checks” I checked with Reality and it said “Hey, you’re already a model!”

You’re already a model. You are creating photo shoots. You are walking runways. You are being booked for work. You are already doing it. You have a gorgeous attitude about the work and the adventure of meeting new people and making beautiful images. You have me kind of dying to see your photos because you sound so positive and cool and I want to see the face of the person who makes me feel this excited reading about her work! Just from your letter I can tell that you are stunning and striking and that people want to be around you.

Your boyfriend is right about what people sometimes say about and to models in the fashion industry. In a student film I made long ago there is a scene where two women pick apart the appearance of a third (the scene starts around 5:40). The actresses who play the stylists both worked as models a lot and their dialogue was improvised 100% out of things people have said to them in real life. They were expected to stand there and not react because “professionalism.” It’s shitty and hurtful and objectifying, and just because it happens in real life doesn’t mean you have to internalize and live it like it’s the truest thing about you. And it doesn’t mean that your boyfriend has to contribute to it, to participate in it. Is this how he talks to all the models he knows? Or does he save it all for you, the woman he supposedly loves? Either way, misogyny and cruelty are not a good look, dude.

It’s okay to not collaborate with your romantic parter even if you are in the same field. It’s actually smart to put boundaries around that sometimes. I need my husband and I to to love each other even if we never make another movie or write another word, or even if we make stuff that’s terrible. If the relationship only goes well when the work goes well, then there’s a fear that if the work goes badly it will make the relationship go badly. So, it’s okay to decide not to cross the streams of work and also smart for you to seek out other photographers. That’s not even the problem here.

The problem is that I think his comments about you being jealous of other people’s careers are him projecting all over the place. He’s jealous of other photographers and their careers. He’s jealous of you, for launching into the space he thought was his alone, the space where he has authority and gets to pretend he’s a gatekeeper of some sort, the space where he thought his giant lens gave him power to decide what’s beautiful enough. He’s jealous of you for blowing the doors off the illusion that he’s some sort of tastemaker. He’s jealous of you for not accepting what he thought were the rules of your industry. He’s jealous of you because you’ve already surpassed his expectations and he can tell that you are about to surpass him. He’s jealous of you because you’re not jealous when he works with other models, and it would be cool if that made you sort of jealous, because it would make him feel powerful. He’s jealous of you for being braver than he is, and instead of sitting with that discomfort and deciding, whoa, my girlfriend is AWESOME, he’s chosen the path of “Well, don’t get your hopes up, babe.

Go ahead and get your hopes up, lovely Letter Writer. Get your hopes up about creating new work and expressing yourself and enjoying what you do for as long as you want to do it. And get your hopes all the way up about finding a partner who will celebrate you and believe in you. Your boyfriend is not that guy. He is a small man with a limited vision and a smaller heart. You, on the other hand, are a g.d. Valkyrie. It’s never going to work, I’m sorry. You’ll never be able to make yourself small enough to fit into the box he thinks is marked “girlfriend.” You’ve already outgrown it, and him.

Break up. Be sad for a while. Keep going with your dream. Keep doing your work. The world holds all the “reality checks” and rejection and doubt and failure any of us will ever need. We don’t actually need any of that from people who say they love us.

Edited to Add Because I Like Visual Aids:

This is the incomparable Stanley Tucci playing Paul Child, Julia Child’s husband in the movie Julie & Julia. He’s looking at his wife, who found her passion quite late in life. He’s wearing a giant heart on his jacket and toasting her at a Valentine’s Day celebration. Look at how he looks at her:

Image description: Stanley Tucci as Paul Child in Julie & Julia. He’s wearing glasses and a groovy striped tie and a paper heart pinned to his jacket and holding a glass of champagne and his eyes are full of love and pride.

THAT’S how we look at the people we love when they shine at doing the thing they love. Like we might explode from how proud and excited we are. Imagine this guy saying “I don’t know, television’s a really hard field, and you’re no Grace Kelly.” Imagine the world where he said that and where Julia let that stop her. Who wants to live in that shitty world? Not me. Not you. Not ever.


312 thoughts on “#1002: “My boyfriend doesn’t believe in my dreams.”

    1. Hear, hear for the Captain! (p.s. The added visual made me teary — Stanley Tucci as Paul Child is the very best.)

      LW, I’m sorry your boyfriend hasn’t been supportive of you. Good on you for your confidence and creativity in your rediscovered passion!

      1. Stanley Tucci as Paul Child made me fall madly in love with Stanley Tucci.
        Honorable mention: the way Josh Lyman looks at Donna.

        1. I would agree EXCEPT! Josh holds Donna back for far too long for selfish reasons. I’m so glad she was able to advance her career for herself!

          1. And it is very accurate to what Paul Child was like in real life! When Julia’s show was getting on its feet, he helped out by washing dishes, schlepping stuff around and whatever unglamorous things needed to be done. He was extremely smart and talented himself, but he never resented Julia for her success. ❤ ❤ ❤ Paul Child

        2. I love him too, and call him “The Tooch” and did well before the Mooch infected our consciousness. Also, if he and Meryl Streep are not friends in real life, I don’t want to know.

      2. Delurking to say, oh, me too. I just immediately went weepy when I saw that picture and read what the Captain said. Paul and Julia Child’s relationship made me realize that my marriage was NOT enough, and I would rather be alone than settle for something less amazing than that. LW, in the words of Saffire, the Uppity Blues Women, dump that chump.There’s a big world out there waiting for you, and you will waste so much time and energy trying to drag this guy along with you, when he obviously doesn’t want to go.

      3. Honestly, I wish they remade that movie so it was JUST the Julia and Paul Child scenes–Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci were a dream, and I loved their tenderness and humor and warmth.

        You deserve that tenderness and humor and warmth, LW. I hope you surround yourself with people who give that to you.

        1. Someone on YouTube has made a “Julia” supercut.

          Apologies to “Julie.” Nobody wants to watch someone blog, not even me.

          1. Oh. My. God. Thank you for mentioning this! I’m watching Julia Sans Julie (on vimeo; I couldn’t find it on youtube) and it’s AMAZING. It’s like 100 times better than the full movie.

          2. I’ve been having a rough couple of weeks; I just moved states for a new job and I’m long distance with my Person and also my People and Julia Sans Julie was just. what. I. needed.

          3. This is the best news! I have watched this movie skipping all the Julie scenes (not only boring, but unpleasant, imo) more than once, and this will save me much aggravation!

          4. Oh, it’s so nice to hear This! I found the Julie part boring. And her angst annoying. I resented every moment Julie’s story took us away from Julia’s (which may have affected my patience with Julie, I admit).

            *runs off to find supercut*

            *runs back in to say: Cap’n, this was beautiful and elicited a cheer; LW, I am in awe of how grounded and fulfilled you sound in this work, and how dare your boyfriend try to squash you back into a tiny box. I think the Captain is right when she speculated that his role as photographer has given him a sense of power over who makes it and who doesn’t, and also that your embrace of this as art and your success have probably shaken the foundation of his beliefs about what modeling is and can be, and instead of holding you in awe, he is belittling you and shitting on your success. Not just your dream — what you describe is so far from someone pining for a life they can’t begin to live; you are alrealready ing the life and convincing others that they want to join you in your dream — he is shitting on your *success* by trying to rewrite it as an unrealistic dream. You have indeed outgrown him, my dear.

        2. YES, that movie is on my comfort watch list primarily because of Streep and Tucci as Julia and Paul; they’re wonderful. That relationship is romantic in a way that doesn’t get a lot of play in the movies, outside of the occasional supporting characters–the pair aren’t young, it’s not a brand-new relationship, and there are no Big Misunderstandings between the lovers that have to be overcome, no Grand Dramatic Gestures made in public places. Instead, it’s this lovely depiction of two people in a long-term relationship consistently showing their mutual affection, adoration, desire (Between two human beings over the age of forty! Gasp!), and support of the other person’s goals. It’s such an unfortunately rare thing to see on screen.

          1. “That relationship is romantic in a way that doesn’t get a lot of play in the movies, outside of the occasional supporting characters–the pair aren’t young, it’s not a brand-new relationship, and there are no Big Misunderstandings between the lovers that have to be overcome, no Grand Dramatic Gestures made in public places. Instead, it’s this lovely depiction of two people in a long-term relationship consistently showing their mutual affection, adoration, desire (Between two human beings over the age of forty! Gasp!), and support of the other person’s goals. It’s such an unfortunately rare thing to see on screen.”

            Okay, now I have to see “Julie & Julia.” My midlife love ROCKS, and it’s that consistent love, kindness, adoration and desire that makes our older love so life-affirming. Sometimes I say to him, “It’s like a movie, except that no one would want to see a couple of 50- and 60-something people be in love.” Guess I’m wrong.

          2. I need to see this, which I haven’t yet. It’s going to make me a little sad, because I loved reading Julie’s blog daily as she wrote it–a ritual my late friend/boss had and used to talk about–and it will be awful to be annoyed by those parts.

          3. Confession – I have never seen Julie & Julia in any form. This description makes me want to run off and see it immediately, being someone who has found my career passion in my late forties, and who has been married for 25 year to someone who is ecstatic that I’ve finally figured out what I want to do (Cancer massage), and is highly supportive of it, even when it’s inconvenient and uncomfortable for him.

  1. I feel like so many letters to this blog can (should) be answered with “kick this horrible person to the curb and move on with the wonderful life you can have without them.”

    1. It has become my life’s mission to help awesome people shed terrible romantic relationships. I am interested in many aspects of interpersonal communication and many kind of relationships, but “Jennifer is the Marie Kondo of Breakups” has a nice ring to it.

      1. Does it bring you joy? No? THEN GET RID OF IT.

        Rule for closet contents AND relationships.

        1. “Thank it for the joy and service it brought you and then send it away from your home.”

          1. “Do not try to store it at your parents’ house or regift it to your little sister.”

          2. ““Do not try to store it at your parents’ house or regift it to your little sister.””

            … family members have just come running to see if I was in trouble due to the shout of hysterics caused by this comment 😀

          3. I haven’t seen Buckaroo Bonzai for over twenty years, and I remember very little of it, but one thing I do remember is how skeeved out I felt at the “romance,” between Buckaroo and whatever the leading lady’s name was. You see, his wife had died, and he loved her so very, very much, that he fell madly in love with her twin sister, BECAUSE THEY LOOKED ALIKE.

            Yeah, so they looked alike. But what about character? Personality? Experiences? Lives lived differently? They are completely different people, and he just said, “Well, model A is gone; I’ll move on to Model B, and be just as happy, because really, what’s the difference, right?” GAAAAAHHHHH!!!!

            True love endures even if you have a horrible farming machine accident and are scarred for life and/or need drastic plastic surgery, because it’s not about your looks. Looks are gravy. Character is meat. Character is potatoes. Character is nutrition.

            I am so hungry now.

            Anyway… Buckaroo skeeved me out with this, and this “do not regift it to your little sister” just brought that all back.

            Now I have to watch that Julia movie. I LOVE seeing older couples who have long adored each other, and grown together and stood the test of time. It is rare, and it is beautiful, and I long ago decided that nothing less than that kind of love would do for me. Which is probably why I am still single. But someday, dang it, I am going to find my Paul Child!

          4. Michelle – I haven’t seen Buckaroo Banzai, but wanted to throw in a model for how it can work positively.

            A few years after my great aunt passed away, her widower married her younger sister – in large part, I think, because of the existing affection between them. Sort of a more extreme version of the dating philosophy of “I only date my friends, because I want to be close to my romantic partners already.”

            (The Marie Kondo-of-relationships is still perfect, though!)

      2. When I was a volunteer chat coordinator in the Women’s chat group on AOL — Lo, these many years ago! — virtually every new woman who came in and chatted started off by complaining about how their boyfriend/husband/lover put them down/made them feel bad/hurt them (emotionally and physically). When we (the crones) advised her to dump him, 99% of the time we got the answer: “But I love him.”

        It’s really hard to help people see through those romantic rose-colored glasses. It’s not going to change until we start teaching young women that love and romance as described in popular culture is not real.

        1. Hear, hear. After I finally realized my ex was (and still is) abusive and was in the process of dumping him, I had the following conversation with a friend.
          Friend: Years ago, I asked you why you stayed with him, given the way he treated you.
          Me: I don’t remember that. What did I say?
          Friend: You said you loved him.

        2. I’ve had to explain to friends that it does not _matter_ if you love them. It does not matter if they love you. Are they making you happy? Are you making them happy? “no”s mean get out.

          1. “Despite what Hollywood, and fiction, tell you — Love isn’t always enough. You can love a person with all your heart and they can STILL be wrong for you. Or you for them.”

        3. Flutters and passion are not enough to sustain a relationship. Flutters and passion can easily be created from dramatic highs and lows that come from toxicity, from always being desperate to be chosen, even if the person who chooses you isn’t worth winning that game. Compatible values matter, a mutual willingness to choose kindness matters, families that are willing to put up with each other (or strong boundaries around family toxicity) matters. If you go into a relationship thinking not “our love will help us overcome EVERY obstacle (including our communication problems and selfishness and laziness)” but rather “I am in it with this person and I am going to choose every single day to be kind and generous of spirit with them and show them how much I appreciate their presence in my life,” that kind of thinking is so. Goddamn. Beautiful. And it’s not celebrated enough in our culture.

          1. “from always being desperate to be chosen, even if the person who chooses you isn’t worth winning that game. ”

            Oh. Ohhhhhhhhhh.

            I have cried from joy and laughter and epiphany so far in this thread.

            This blog is a marvel.

          2. “I am in it with this person and I am going to choose every single day to be kind and generous of spirit with them and show them how much I appreciate their presence in my life,”

            THIS THIS THIS. Made me cry and go ask my husband if he wanted a kiss.

          3. A reply to Chick: I say it because I’ve lived it and more than once. Thank God for my current partner, is all I’ll say :3

        4. Years ago I lived in the middle unit of an old triplex. To my north was Donna, and older woman who had lived quite a life. On days I was home I could here her though the kitchen wall yelling at women on daytime television shows, you know, the ones where people divulge all the horrible stuff of their lives in front of camera’s and some guy like Jerry Springer, and Donna would be yelling, mockingly “But I looove him.” Then, in her own voice, “Dump him! He’s bad for you!” Gods, I loved her.

        5. I had that conversation with my mom about my terrible college boyfriend (mind, my mom is the most hands-off, MYOB person out there when it comes to doling out romantic advice, but I’d been complaining about this guy for ages and I think she’d reached the end of her rope). The next time I delved into ‘he’s mean and unreliable and he cheats on me and belittles the things I care about BUT I LOVE HIM,’ she was like, ‘okay, honey. I know you love him. But are you happy with him? Because it doesn’t really sound like you are.’

          Mind. Blown. Somehow at 20 that had never occurred to me as a prerequisite for a good relationship, being happy around the person you’re dating. The idea that just loving someone isn’t enough to make a bad relationship good.

        6. I always want to ask “why?”

          Not as a trick or to be mean. But what about this terrible person who seems to think about you* only when he’s coming up with a new way to make you feel bad merits your love?

          *”You” being the generalized posters in said chat room, or any chat room, or LIFE

          1. My partner had been annoying me quite a bit lately, and I found myself in a bit of a negativity spiral, so I wrote down all the things I actually like about him, and was relieved to find it still a long list.

        7. This is exactly why I wasn’t the one to leave, despite at least three red flags warning me to do so. I loved him, I thought well of him, and I was conditioned to believe that objecting to his behavior was Assuming the Worst and being a Bad Girlfriend.

      3. Someone needs to make you like a sign or a sash or a crown with that very title on it Captain. You are absolutely the “Marie Kondo of Breakups” – you create opportunities for people to invite love and happiness and light and strength into their dark spaces.

        Dear LW, I hope you take these words and hug them close and know – without a shadow of a doubt – that you were meant for greater things than your boyfriend is capable of appreciating and experiencing with you. You owe it to yourself to not be shackled by his doubt and jealousy and live to the fullest this dream of yours that you are actively weaving into reality. We are all TEAM YOU!

  2. It makes me sad when I think about the times I let people discourage me. Like the Captain says: You’re already a PROFESSIONAL model.

  3. Last year I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic. One of the stories in there is about a friend of hers who had a childhood dream of figure skating. In her forties, she decided to start doing it. She got skates and now goes to the rink a few times a week and enjoys gliding around on the ice. Now, Gilbert makes a point of saying that this friend is never going to “get anywhere” by doing this and that’s completely ok – she loves it and it feeds her soul and that is a great reason for her to keep doing it. We should all do the things we love.
    It would be worth it for you to pursue modeling as a hobby even if you knew you’d never enjoy any kind of material success or recognition with it. If you were just at the level of messing around in the garage with some thrift store clothes and a selfie stick and then posting pics yourself on Insta with no post production, that would be a good enough reason for your boyfriend to support you in your dream – just because it made you happy. But look at you – you are ALREADY WAY PAST THAT POINT. You are manifesting your dreams!! I haven’t even met you and I feel so proud and inspired.
    He doesn’t deserve you. You can do better. He probably can’t, but that is his problem, not yours. Don’t hide your light under his bushel.

    1. This, exactly this. Whether your goal is to try for New York Fashion Week or you don’t actually have any goal at all and just want to walk a catwalk in the spotlight a couple of times a month because it feels good — you should expect your boyfriend to support you.

      If you decide to give up modelling and get super enthusiastic about basket weaving, he should love your enthusiasm for basket weaving, whether you ever qualify for the World Basket Weaving Championship or not.

      In fact if you say “I dunno, is my basket weaving even any good?” he doesn’t say “pfft, well, it’ll never show at MOMA.” He says “YOUR BASKETS ARE AMAZEBALLS” or “I LOVE YOUR BASKETS” or “I love how much YOU love basket weaving.”

      Expect love to supply a soft place to land, a comfort from the harsh realities of life. Don’t accept the opposite.

      1. I love your username and please tell me you have a friend named George b/c her parents really wanted a boy.

      2. Exactly. I love sewing. I’ve been doing it for years. I geek out over movie/theater costumes. I cosplay. And every so often people ask me “Are you going to do something with it?”

        No. No, I’m not. I’m going to keep on doing what I enjoy, which is making myself weird dresses and costumes and I’m never going to design wedding dresses or work on a movie set. I’m just doing it because *I* like doing it. It doesn’t need a higher purpose.

        1. You are, clearly, _manifestly_, already doing a thing with it! You are geeking out & cosplaying & having _fun_. These are all Things!

          1. Right?!? “are you going to do something with it?” Random person, you keep using that word “something”, I do not think it means what you think it means. Your are doing something grand with your sklls.

          1. La passion nous anime.

            I think that’s some kind of cynical car marketing slogan, but LOL DON’T CARE, it’s true regardless.

          2. Passion, hopes and dreams is where progress comes from.

            People joke about this, but think about it – the Internet started with a bunch of boffins wondering what would happen if the telephone lines in Birmingham went down and someone in London had to get in touch with Manchester ASAP.

            Or, better yet, penicillin was discovered when someone looked at their mouldy dishes and went: “I can use that!”

        2. Oh man yeah. I sew and craft and cosplay, and I get asked all the time why I don’t sell my work (in a tone that implies that I’m somehow missing out/not living life to the fullest).

          Because I don’t want to! Because this is my fun hobby and I don’t want to stress about it! Because I want to get good enough to look awesome, not good enough that someone else wants to buy from me, and that’s a totally legitimate goal!

          1. I get that question too, and I always say “I do this because it’s fun, and I don’t ever want to be in a position where it’s not fun and I still have to do it.” Most people get it, and the ones who don’t, eh, I’m not going to kill my enjoyment of my hobby just to please them.

          2. On top of that, I ran the numbers once, and even at minimum wage, the things I make would be ridiculously expensive. I don’t think I even bothered factoring in the cost of materials.

          3. Yeah, handmade stuff unfortunately costs more to make than most people can afford pay. I spin on a drop spindle. It’s fun and the yarn is lovely, but I use it for gifts. At minimum wage I’d still have to charge $150 for enough to make a hat. Nobody’s willing to do that, and I’m not willing to undercut the people who do it for a living.

          4. @Darcy: omg *exactly*. This is why I no longer pursue the performing arts as a career: it sucks to have to beat something you love into the ground. I like being able to take a break from what I’m doing and go enjoy something else for a while. I like the fact that I can practice my opera singing just once or twice a week and if I decide that’s enough, then it’s enough, and nobody gets to tell me otherwise. I like the fact that when I reach a point where I am absolutely sick of the arias I know and can’t seem to find a new one I like, I can just go do something else for a while. And you know what? Each and every one of us is fully and completely allowed to be someone outside of our jobs, and we don’t have to turn everything we do into another job. Money isn’t everything.

          5. I agree, Kelsi. I knit my first sweater and am so proud! Now, I added up what the materials and tools cost me, and for someone who thinks buying a $9 sweater from Amazon that I don’t absolutely NEED is an almost unforgivably wasteful splurge, my first sweater, not counting what my time and labor might cost if compensated, would probably cost $250.00.

            My current outfit is 90% $5 thrift store finds, so it’s not like I am accustomed to spending $250 for ANYTHING, much less a sweater.

            It’s not about whether you can make a lot of money at it. It’s not whether you can be “successful” or “famous” or “a name” doing it. Sometimes something just makes you happy and fulfilled, and its value is not quantifiable in terms of “did it make you money?” or “why do it if you can’t be as popular as [celebrity in field]?”

            I mean, WHY make a nice, home-cooked dinner every now and then, instead of living off frozen foods and canned soups? Because you might survive on the former, but the latter feeds more than your tummy. It’s OK to want to create something, and to continue to get better at that thing, and even to compete, if only in your head or dreams, with professionals that create that thing as a full-time career.

            Sometimes it is the journey or the process, not the destination or the finished object.

        3. My mother made two quilts for her recently-widowed neighbor, out of the neighbor’s husband’s signature Hawaiian shirts. The quilts are absolutely gorgeous, and G cried when she saw them. They are ultimately destined for their children, but she needs to keep them for herself for a while, first. Mom said it was really difficult to start cutting into the shirts, and the only thing that made her able to do it was the knowledge that if she had been sitting down to dinner with J and had said, “I’ve been looking for the right cloth for my quilt, and that shirt you are wearing would be perfect, ” he would have gotten up from the table, changed his shirt, and given it to her without thinking twice about it.

          Now G’s cleaning lady is telling Mom (not asking) that she is going to make a quilt for the cleaning lady out of her father’s old clothes. Mom doesn’t know this woman, and didn’t know her father, and has not managed yet to clearly tell her that it is a totally presumptuous request (let alone order) that she will not be complying with. But she really, really doesn’t want to, and I don’t think she will let herself be browbeaten into it in the end.

          Mom doesn’t think of herself as an artist, but she is doing the thing she loves. Sometimes she does it for herself, and sometimes she does it for other people that she loves. As far as I am concerned, she is 100% an artist and she doesn’t need any more purpose than the already has.

        4. Yes! I cook and I make beaded jewelry and sometimes people ask whether I ever want to do either of those things professionally, and I’m like… no? Because then it would be work? I don’t want to risk coming to resent or even hate what is now a delightful hobby.

          1. Yes! This exactly! I knit, and I am forever getting folk telling me I should sell my stuff. Well, no, because I don’t want to turn something I enjoy into work. Fair play to the folk who do make a business out of it, but every time I’ve knitted for pay I’ve ended up resenting the hell out of it, so I’m pretty sure it’s not for me 🙂

          2. I knit for barter sometimes. I made a friend a pair of DNA mittens. She made me a necklace. I made a different friend socks, and got lucet lacing cord in return. I never ever knit for cash.

          3. I, too, knit. I find the best way to deflect the “knit for pay” comments is to reply how much said item would actually cost if I charged what it really cost in materials and time. People (very generally) do not understand the true cost of handcrafts.

          4. I cross-stitched for pay, once. ONCE.

            Actually, I enjoyed the process, but it was a on-off for a reason. One of my co-workers saw me doing my hobby, and remembered that I enjoy it. He went on vacation, and somewhere along the way, in a souvenir shop, he found a cross-stitch kit that he liked, and wanted to hang on his wall, but he didn’t know how to do it.

            So, he came to me, and said, “If I pay you $150, will you make this kit for me?”

            It was a fun project, and he was paying me minimum wage for something I’d enjoy doing in my spare time, and not asking for it on some tight deadline, and not getting all, “You need to be professional” at me, but still realizing that my effort was worth something. That’s the only reason I was willing to do it for pay.

            My projects are for my own enjoyment and for the enjoyment of friends who receive the gifts. If I had to charge for them, they would be so expensive (because of materials, time, and skill actually being worth something!), that very few people would be willing to pay for it. A few people are willing to pay for it, because they have a similar hobby, with similar issues with materials, time and skill involved.

        5. Kurt Vonnegut wrote about his sister, Alice, who was a very talented painter who easily could have had gallery shows, had she wanted. Near the end of her life, he asked why she had never done anything with her talent. She told him (paraphrasing), “I did. I painted what I wanted, when I wanted. And if you think I wasted my talent, it was my talent to waste.”

          1. Exactly.

            I showed a poem to a friend once and it brought tears to his eyes (in a good way). He said every priest should read it, and that I should show my poems to someone, and I told him I just did. Years later (this year) I showed it to a former Archbishop and he said he agreed that every priest should read it.

            And now I paint pictures which get carefully wrapped and put on a shelf (Although my d opened an Etsy shop for me yesterday; we have talked about it for a long time. Years. And the October exhibition is drawing nearer … )

            Artists do what they/we(?) do. The OP is indeed a model, and an Art Director and much more.

            Meanwhile, I want ‘I’m a G D Valkyrie’ on a t-shirt.

        6. This is me and baking. I love taking ingredients and turning them into something else… but trying to make a living off it? Having to get up early, and people demanding that I make what they want and not what I feel like that day… that sounds like a great way to turn my stress relief into the exact opposite.

          1. This is why I hate facile advice like “do what you love and the money will follow!”

            Because loving to bake and being a professional baker are TWO DIFFERENT THINGS. Same with just about everything in life. That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t ever try or settle for any random job, but “I Like X” should be a starting point, not a “Jump Off Cliff Here” sign.

        7. Oh god. I have the opposite problem. I do things. Lots of things. And I’m good at them, ranging from competent to truly excellent. And people in my life keep drafting or strong-arming me into doing these things professionally or semi-professionally. Which has given me an incredibly scattered, unfocused life where my time seems to never be my own. I finally found The Thing – the one that I want to do, want to become truly world class at, and I’m talented at it, I really am! (Top of my class at massage school, recommended to the local cancer clinic by the school owner)

          And practically everyone in my life seems to be either bemoaning the loss of all these other things they’ve been relying on, or alternatively telling me I should ditch them all and focus exclusively on massage 24/7 or I’ll never get anywhere. And I want to scream and shake them all because can’t I have hobbies that don’t turn into giant obligations?

    2. YES!! So much this.

      I wish more of culture appreciated that it’s OK to just do things for fun and enjoyment. It seems like once you’re adult, everything has to be *for a reason* and if you’re not going to go pro with it then why bother? and it’s a really limiting perspective. Like, if you didn’t start learning this as a kid, major in it, get a job in that field, then why are you here? But I don’t agree with that.

      It’s OK to play a sport for fun – regardless of your prospects at ever playing professionally/getting sponsorships etc.
      It’s OK to do art for fun – and never try to sell it or publish or do a show or whatever.
      It’s OK to learn a skill – even if it has no relevance to your professional career and you never ever pivot to the new skill.

      As far as you get is as far as you WANT to go. It’s the journey that matters, not the socially approved correct end point that determines whether you should even bother getting on the path.

      1. I absolutely agree that the perspective you’re describing is incredibly A.) Dominant and B.) Limiting, but I’d add that don’t think it’s limited to the adult world, at least not where I grew up. I remember a lot of the same attitudes when I was in high school and younger, where expressing desire to learn about something new or work on building a skill was often met with questions of “Well, what are you going to do with that?” Required high school curriculum garnered few complaints in that direction because we *had* to take them, but electives were pretty uniformly regarded with suspicion. I remember having to defend my violin-playing to random adults who didn’t get why I was learning an instrument with no intention of becoming a professional musician, and those of us who opted to take foreign language classes were usually interrogated about what we “planned to do with” our newly-acquired French or German language skills. If I showed talent or interest in something, adults (not my parents, fortunately) would ask if I was going to make a career out of it, like it was ridiculous for me to build skills in tech theatre or write fiction or study film history if I wasn’t going to somehow make a living from it one day.

        It’s a warped way to respond to a young person’s enthusiasm for something, this “all or nothing” approach that suggests that if you aren’t planning to become a full-time professional, it’s not worth doing. I definitely saw it shape a lot of my high school classmates in ways that were very depressing. I think it’s linked to the idea that what you do for a living has to be the defining factor at the core of your identity, which certainly isn’t true for everyone! It took me years to get to the point where I realized that I could have a fulfilling job I enjoy, but it doesn’t have to be the most important thing about me. Part of what I love about my job is that it leaves me with enough time and energy to pursue hobbies I’m passionate about! I might someday make a pittance on my crocheting or glitterhouses or writing, but that’s so not the POINT.

        1. Wow, that’s really sad 😦 I’m sorry you had to go through that poop so young.

          I’m lucky that I didn’t experience, or at least didn’t notice, that attitude as a kid.
          Kids doing art or sport or xyz skill camp were just being kids, but as I got older it was hard to find even the SPACE to do a thing that wasn’t geared around people doing it for money and/or had been doing it since childhood.

          The thought of even kids needing to justify cool new things with the demands of future success is incredibly sad.

        2. This, so much!! No one would leave me alone about WHY I was learning Russian and WHAT WAS I GOING TO DO WITH IT. It just tickled and satisfied something deep in my brain; scratched an itch that I didn’t even know I had. There is a lot to be said for intrinsic motivation for studying/learning/doing anything. It sort of comes down to “what is a good quality life?” Is success measured only in money earned, or in richness of experience and learning for the sake of learning because that is one of the awesome things about being human is how much we can learn and grow in our lifetimes?

          I make blankets out of felted, repurposed (“upcycled”) cashmere sweaters, cut into strips and sewn together. I make them only for people I feel like making them for, and they are gorgeous and special and amazing, and no I’m not going to sell them.

      2. I completely agree. The phrase that set me free as an adult is: “I’ve learned to enjoy doing things poorly.” No more worrying whether I’ll ever be an expert skier. No more stressing about whether I’ll ever be “good enough” on the cello. I can go as far as I want to, and no further, unless I’m having fun.

        1. The British author G. K. Chesterton phrased it “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”

      3. It’s not only OK to do that, it’s extremely important. I can’t tell you how many lonely times in my life I’ve gotten through just by having something to do that was mine and mine alone. Bring Back Unprofitable Hobbies 2k17

    3. “We should all do the things we love….just because it made you happy.”

      THIS! As a singer, I’m always getting comments along the lines of “Oh, I love to sing, I’d love to be in a choir/performance/sing someplace besides my shower, but I’m not GOOD like you.”

      DO IT! I try to be gently supportive, but by the end I’m always practically shouting on top of a chair. I don’t care if you change keys every three notes and are off-oitch even then, if you love it (even just like it), do it! Don’t get me started on parents who won’t go to their children’s school concerts because “well, it’s student playing….it’s not good,” either.

      Btw, LW, if you’re getting paid to model, you are by definition a professional model. That’s what professional means, you get paid to do the thing. Amateur means you don’t get paid. It says little about skill. There are as many amateur musicians in my home state alone as there are pros, and at least half of them are equally skilled, but choose not to do music for a job for a variety of reasons. Like me.

      You’re a –professional model–! And loving it! You’re awesome!

  4. LW: The gaslighting going on here is amazing. You’re not a model? Don’t get your hopes up? But she’s booking work….actual work. She’s making beautiful images and collaborating with people in creative and fun ways. What does he think she’s doing at her modeling jobs? Modeling lite? Pseudo modelling?


    1. Yeah, that struck me too! I have a few friends who tried modeling and realized it was not for them because even in small markets there’s a lot of competition. So even if you’re “only” booking a few shows, that’s already amazing!

      You ARE a real model, right now!

    2. For real! I think it’s super telling that the industry itself is telling the LW, “you are a model and you can do this and are doing it,” and it’s only the boyfriend trying to shoot her down.

      1. Like: LW, your boyfriend doesn’t not believe in your dreams. He doesn’t believe in your REALITY.

        1. Yes! I said something like this above, but this highlights the point better.

          I went into the letter thinking OP would be describing dreams with limited access that she was miles from reaching (for which she would still deserve support), but instead I read the story of a successful model whose dreams arise out of her success and her passion and her artistry, and of a boyfriend who is gaslighting her by rewriting those dreams — pretty sure NY Fashion Week is only in this conversation because he brought it in, either as a way to deflate OP or becaue his vision is woefully limited — so he can even begin to squash them.

  5. LW, as the Captain and others have pointed out, YOU ARE ALREADY A PROFESSIONAL MODEL. Your boyfriend is being a jerk and unnecessarily critical. I think he is insecure and is possibly worried that you are going to meet a fabulous man that supports and encourages you, so he’s going to try to break you down before that happens. Woman already deal with so much judgement and your relationship should be a safe place.

    If my husband told me I wasn’t Naomi Campbell, I’d be like “You’re not Jason Momoa, so deal with it”.

    1. “You aren’t Jason Momoa” made me spit my coffee out, so thanks for that.

      Seriously, LW, your boyfriend isn’t Helmut Newton either. It sounds like he’s at a point you are rapidly approaching in your new career- steady local work, a good reputation in your community, but not, like shooting for vogue or walking in new York Fashion week or whatever he thinks success is, and he doesn’t
      want you to be.If he was just trying to warn you about the unreasonable standards of the industry (which you are well aware of!) he could do that while making himself a safe haven from them and be happy for your success in spite of them. Think about it- if you got that call from fashion week tomorrow, would he be thrilled for you, or would he find some other way of making you feel small? He’s a jerk and you don’t need him to live the amazing life you clearly can create alone. And if there’s any way to see your work, I second the Captain in really wanting to! You sound so wonderful, so congrats on being a badass.

      1. **Think about it- if you got that call from fashion week tomorrow, would he be thrilled for you, or would he find some other way of making you feel small?**

        This is a really good point. Yeah, he’d be all, “Well, one of the Fashion Week organizers had a stroke recently and so I hear they’ve been letting all sorts of riff-raff in, soooooo…” (Sadly, I’ve encountered this kind of dismissiveness SO, SO OFTEN from various family and now-discarded boyfriends that the gaslighting didn’t even leap out at me right away…).

        It doesn’t sound like the LW is letting all this get her down too much, anyway. Questioning the relationship, sure – thus the letter. But his behavior immediately leaps out at her as odd, which says great things about the LW’s self-esteem and b.s. detection skills.

        1. I agree with this. The LW has her head screwed on straight, and knows she deserves better than this B.S.

          Are you just looking for someone to tell you to go ahead and dump him, LW? Well, you have all of our permission! Because you’re right, you deserve better than this.

      2. This! I could imagine a scenario where BF is an overly-cautious person who doesn’t want to see his girlfriend get her hopes dashed and get hurt (as an overly-cautious person who’s had to learn how to bite my tongue)–but that’s not what’s happening here! He’s belittling the success LW has already accomplished, and it sounds like no matter how successful she becomes–whether it remains an enjoyable hobby/side gig or becomes a full-blown job–he’s going to find something to criticize. That’s not someone you need in your life.

      3. Yeeeessss. This guy sounds incredibly resentful and jealous (My first thought when I saw this on twitter was “Oooo, he’s jelly!”), and rather than trying to step back and get some perspective (Hey, dude, you are able to make a living at a dream career in the way many people cannot), he’s decided to flat-out DENY REALITY and be a complete douchebarge to his girlfriend. And fuck that noise. There is no way that, if I heard him say this, I wouldn’t come right back with “And who the fuck are YOU?” He’s being a meanie for no reason, and LW would be miles better off without him.

    2. The LW’s husband should be thankful that LW is nor Naomi Campbell, because otherwise he’d have a phone flying at his head for his emotional abuse.

  6. “You’ll never be able to make yourself small enough to fit into the box he thinks is marked “girlfriend.” You’ve already outgrown it, and him.”

    *slow clap of appreciative-ness*

  7. This is straight-up bullshit and not the way a good significant other should behave! It would be one thing if you were blowing your savings or quitting a job – that would warrant some “I’m concerned that this isn’t responsible,” or “I’m concerned that the ‘agent’ who’s taking all your money is scamming you” – but that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening here. What’s happening is that your boyfriend is just shitting all over your dreams. That’s not how a good person acts towards someone they care about.

    Imagine this scenario: you have a friend who likes to write, and you don’t think her writing is that good. You would never in a million years try telling her to give up, that she’s not a good writer, would you? For one thing, you could be wrong! Maybe she turns out to be the next Rowling, or heck, the next E.L. James – wouldn’t you feel like an idiot if you told her she was crap and she ended up making it big? Who died and made you top judge of all writing?

    For another thing, you’re not a 100-proof-asshole, and that’s the sort of thing only a 100-proof-asshole would do. You might occasionally voice concern if you think some scam artist agent is trying to get money out of her to enter into a sketchy writing contest or do some other dumb thing, but you would never tell her her dream is stupid. You’d be happy that she had a hobby that made her happy and encourage her in it. Further, assuming you had some skill in writing or connections, you’d probably help. You’d edit and spellcheck her work if asked, maybe take her with you to a writing convention you knew was good, or do other little things to help her along.

    Now, what’s your boyfriend doing? Excluding you from events like photoshoots where you could watch and learn things, undermining you by telling you that you won’t make it… what kind of a jerk would do that? Why is he cutting you down instead of lifting you up? You have a day job that pays bills, it doesn’t seem like you’re paying some sort of scam artist who’s feeding you a line or otherwise doing anything risky, you’re booking solid model work (congrats, btw) – why isn’t he okay with that? A decent person would be in your corner, doing what they could to help, even if they didn’t personally think you could be the next Tyra, and would be cheering you on so long as you didn’t put yourself at risk.

    There’s no good reason for his actions. This is not how a good person behaves around a loved one.

  8. Yes!! LW, I am so excited for you.

    Also, re: reality checks, I think there’s vital space between being successful at a multi-million international level and an occasional hobby. You’re already in that space! You’re booked solid until the autumn. You can build solidly on that. Why not?

    Lyndsey Scott also started modelling relatively late and was also urged to retire as she neared 30, but she… didn’t. She didn’t listen to people saying creepy invasive things about her weight and her pores and other completely normal fleshy accoutrements required of a human body and she carried on modelling–along with acting and iOs coding. She didn’t accept the limits people tried to put on her abilities.

    Absolutely get your hopes up. You have plans! Move forward with them in the best way possible.

    1. “there’s vital space between being successful at a multi-million international level and an occasional hobby.” I wish this were more widely recognized. “Successful” doesn’t have to mean “in the top 3 names in the field” or “has become a household name”. It can just mean “having a steady flow of paid work that suits you, given your time constraints and other activities.”

      I make jewelry. Would I like for my jewelry to be worn by movie stars at awards shows? Sure, that’d be cool! Will I be sad if that never happens? Nah, I’m perfectly happy with my little Etsy shop bringing in a bit of side cash. That’s “successful” to me. So someone saying “you’ll never be a famous jeweler”, well, duh? But also why would that stop me from doing it at the level I want to, and enjoying it?

      So OP, as long as you’re doing your modeling thing at the level *you* want to, it doesn’t matter if you’re Naomi Campbell or not, because that’s not necessarily your goal. And your boyfriend throwing that at you is just trying to squish you back down into the “girlfriend” box he’s comfortable with. Fuck that, and frankly fuck him.

      1. Oh!! Jadelyn, I love that you make jewellery! I tried a little bit of basic jewellery making and got hand cramps. It’s such an intricate art.

        Yes to everything you said. I’ve just been thinking about this all night. I’ve been doing fiction writing and illustrating for a few years now. My output is negligible and I’ll never make it big, but I’ve already gone further on this path than I ever thought I would. I used to write 0 stories and make 0 art. Now I get maybe a half-dozen small, interesting art commissions from small zines and try to get a story published each year. The bar, it is low, but my happiness is so much higher.

        The SFF authors most people have heard of, those household names, are super duper famous. But the authors I know of that are famous within those who are knowledgeable about the field at large, they are just as good! And they make anything from a comfortable income to a side gig with their day job(s). You can subdivide that further by region, cultural groups, specific genres etc etc into different layers of recognition and fame.

        There are a lot of writers and a lot of artists out there, I learned. A lot of them have had specific education and training which I can’t and don’t want to access. A tiny minority of them rose rapidly within a couple of years; a much larger proportion have been working steadily away for 5 – 10 years. The field is saturated with fresh talent, and I’m often nervous that I’ve missed out on something by not immediately being successful, like Helen Oyeyemi or Zadie Smith.

        But I take heart from, of all things, Nigella Lawson’s bolstering wisdom on making mayonnaise by hand: feel the fear and do it anyway! And I am not going to be the next Oyeyemi or Smith because I can only be myself and do my own work.

        LW, you are not Naomi Campbell because only you can do your work. Only you can do what you do! Your soon-to-be (I HOPE) ex doesn’t want to understand that the you work with choose you for you, not because of your potential to be another Campbell.

        1. My very favorite SF author only ever wrote three novels and a dozen or so short stories. I don’t care in the least that she never became a full-time pro author. I’m just thrilled she wrote what she did (and sad that she died before she wrote more).

    2. Bonus reality check: yes, the majority of big name models’ careers tail off after 30, but modelling in the wider sense has a need for more diversity than the major-league catwalk shows tend to show. In the big, practical real world of multimedia and advertising, models of all ages, genders, ethnicities and sizes are needed for a wide range of work.

      1. Yeah, modeling for, say, the L. L. Bean catalog might not be the heights of “success” that walking the runway in Paris for Gucci is, but it’s still modeling. Those are real models, doing real modeling work.

        1. Hey now, I wouldn’t kick any of the gents from http://yourllbeanboyfriend.tumblr.com/ out of bed for eating crackers…

          I know this wasn’t the point of your comment, but it made me smile and remember one of my favorite old tumblrs, which I thought I’d share.

  9. “He’s jealous of you for blowing the doors off the illusion that he’s some sort of tastemaker.”

    That’s so perfectly said, Captain. Gatekeepers depend on their roles. When you *don’t let them actually bar the gate,* you’re toppling that fragile little Jenga tower of superiority they built, and there’s no putting those blocks back in place. LW, please keep living the creative, collaborative life you’ve already built for yourself without a “partner” (big air-quotes there) who desperately wants to shove you back out of the gate he thinks he controls. You’re already living your dream – you’re amazing!

  10. All of those lines sound like they come from a Brain Weasel Incarnate, not from a partner. And any partner who thinks you need more Brain Weasels needs to become an ex-partner soonest.

  11. I am usually the more practical partner in my relationship, so I can see some sort of world where my partner decides to quit his job out of the blue and pursue a creative passion that he is likely never going to reach the top in (like idk, scriptwriting or something) and I have to find some sort of way to gently remind him of practical concerns. The difference there though would be of course that he would be going on a very risky financial endeavor that I have the potential to be harmed by. And even then I wouldn’t say “quit your dream”!! I might recommend pursuing a real job that would get him experience in it, or at least be industry adjacent. That’s what it means to be supportive but realistic to me.

    The point is, LW, that even when a loving partner feels they have to provide some sort of “reality check”, the motivation should be helping both of you achieve your goals in life! If you’re not risking his financial future (you say you work a full time job!), and you are actively and productively pursuing your goals (you’re booking work!!), then what is there to even begin to comment on?? Things like “Well you’re not Naomi Campbell” don’t help either one of you if the goal is to have you both happy and fulfilled. It only helps if his goal is to make you feel small.

    1. This! I could totally get it if he was like “don’t blow all your cash” “please put the diet pills down” “that agent is a skeeze” “don’t quit school/your day job” but this? This is just being undermining.

    2. Exactly! The only reason for not being 100% “that’s awesome, I’m so happy for you, keep going!” is if pursuing your dream was going to have serious financial repercussions on him which doesn’t seem to be the case at all!
      And even then… Nothing justifies a snarky “You’re not Naomi Campbell” comment. That was just meant to put you down.

      If you think this is out of character for then you could try having one last conversation with him along the lines of “What you’re doing is not helpful and I would really appreciate you being supportive even if you are doubting me on the inside. I don’t need reality checks, I’m a grown woman with a full time paying job and actual success in modeling (wtf right?)”. If he argues or can’t seem to stick to a supportive attitude from then on, I really don’t think he is good enough for you.

    3. So much this. It would be one thing if the LW was like, cashing out her 401k to pay a sleazy agent. But all she’s doing is pursuing a creative passion in her free time.

      Plus most working models aren’t Naomi Campbell level. Being a multi-millionaire, super famous person is kind of rare in most industries.

    4. “Things like “Well you’re not Naomi Campbell” don’t help either one of you if the goal is to have you both happy and fulfilled. It only helps if his goal is to make you feel small.”

      This is so spot on. My husband does a lot of creative hobby stuff in his spare time, and has considered trying his hand at making money that way. It’s always been a conversation we have together about what he realistically can and can’t do, and how it would impact our financial stability, and how it would impact his mental health. I can’t even imagine saying something like the LW’s boyfriend did, even in jest, about something my SO clearly loves doing.

    5. Ooh! Real world example: my husband recently started talking about quitting his full-time job to pursue freelance work (in the same field). However, our money situation doesn’t really allow for the kind of feast-or-famine nature of freelance at this exact moment, and he doesn’t have the contacts yet to be freelancing full-time right out the gate.

      Did I say, “I don’t know, honey, you’re no [famous person in that field]”??? NO! I said, “Okay, but you should probably keep working for someone else at least part-time for a while, just because we don’t have a lot saved up for a cushion just now.” And then I asked him to sit down with me and look at our budget before he made any big decisions. Because I want him to follow his dreams! But I also don’t want to ruin our credit! And I think that’s okay!

      This thing where LW’s partner just shuts her down when she’s doing something she loves that doesn’t negatively impact their life together in any appreciable way, though? That just sucks.

      1. Yeah. ‘It’s a tough field, let’s be sure there’s a safety net’ is a reality check. ‘I dunno, babe, you’re not all that’ is tearing you down, plain and simple.

      2. As an aside, thanks for the suggestion on how to have that conversation. I recently discovered that I might need to discuss that at some point. Thanks for the ideas on how to frame it in a way that’s supportive AND realistic.

    6. Yes! When I read the header, I hoped in vain that this might be a situation like, oh, “Please don’t quit your day job right now, we can’t make rent on just my income” or “let’s talk about a longer-term plan for this so we don’t go broke” or whatever. Because that can be negotiated with compassion, planning, and compromise. I am often the person who is kind of going, “whoa, sweetie, please don’t do anything precipitous,” because I am a planner (and to be quite honest I like stability).

      This… is not that.

  12. “The world holds all the “reality checks” and rejection and doubt and failure any of us will ever need. We don’t actually need any of that from people who say they love us.”

    Truer words were never spoken. It’s one thing to guide or advise when someone you love is entering into a competitive, subjective, often brutal industry. It’s a whole other thing if that person actively undermines your courage, faith in yourself, drive, or talent.

    I spent 20 years as an art director/creative director in advertising. I know of that which I speak.

    1. Our loved ones need to be good stewards of our dreams. If not, they need to STFU, or at least they don’t have the privilege to advise us on it.

      I swear I read it in another CA letter although I cannot remember which one!

      1. Maybe the one from a few weeks back, about the LW who wanted to travel around the world in spite of their family being assholes to them? Reader question #99something, I think.

      2. “Our loved ones need to be good stewards of our dreams.”
        Add that to the list of Things I Swear I Will Embroider On A Pillow Someday. Right next to “Punch UP, not Down” and “My Fandom’s OTP can beat up your Fandom’s.”

        1. “My Fandom’s OTP and your Fandom’s OTP sound like they would host one helluva a tea party.”

  13. Oh, this letter brought up so many feels for me.

    LW, I come from a family where these “reality checks” are a frequent part of the way older members talk to younger ones. “Don’t get your hopes up” and “You’re not (famous writer/painter/actor) were a regular chorus, especially around uni application times. My brother dealt with it by saying ‘Screw all of you’ and doing his thing. I dealt with it by not drawing any more attention to my artistic endeavours around my family, working on them in my free time, and then trying out different ways to express myself.

    Neither my brother nor I are superstars and we are both (I think) realistic about our chances. We have different approaches to satisfying our drive to make art. I can’t speak for him but I’m okay if I don’t make it as a writer/painter, provided I give it my best shot and carve out space in my life for it because it makes me happy, not because it will make me a load of money.

    Your boyfriend sounds like those family members of mine who insist on ‘reality checks’ because they don’t want me going broke or getting disappointed. But they think of success as fame and fortune. To me, success is being able to do what I love, and people telling me how much I am not like (commercially successful superstar) isn’t helpful, it’s distracting and hurtful. I agree with the Captain, this is 100% projection on your boyfriend’s end, and that is not cool. If he wants to discuss his professional anxieties with you, there are ways he can do that without simultaneously bringing you down or distracting you from what you do.

    Luckily for you, you don’t have to put up with that if you don’t want to.

    1. It doesn’t sound like LW’s boyfriend is trying to spare her from disappointment. What he’s doing is a blatant attempt to put her in her place, which apparently is several rungs below him on his mental Ladder of Superiority. Screw that.

      1. It could be that. He certainly doesn’t sound trustworthy, regardless of where he is coming from. I probably should have worded myself better, something along the lines of: This is what helped me reframe my own definitions of success so that I don’t let callous remarks by loved ones stop me from doing what I want to do.

        Not sure if that makes sense either….

  14. I love what the captain said about your boyfriend’s jealousy, LW. I can empathize with being jealous – it can be hard watching someone else succeed when you’re not feeling happy and successful yourself. But that’s an emotion *he* has to manage on his own, and being a jerk to you is not a form of management. If he can’t find a way to be supportive and joyful for your success despite whatever else he feels about it inside his own breain, then he is not being a partner to you and you deserve better.

    1. “that’s an emotion he has to manage on his own, and being a jerk to you is not a form of management” I need that embroidered on a pillow.

    2. ^ THIS SO HARD.
      I’m dating a masters student 2 years younger then me. I’m a undergraduate. Spoiler alert: somedays I get jealous that he was able to graduate on schedule and pursue a higher degree.
      But that’s not my partner’s issue to manage. I try to be 100% supportive of his accomplishments and when I can’t, I tell him “hey I’m a bit down on myself can we not talk about school for a while.”

      LW, I guess my point is if your boyfriend is having an issue with jealousy, there were ways for him to deal with it without putting you down. As it is, he’s being a jerk and he needs to stop and if he doesn’t stop, DTMF please.

  15. Way to go, LW!!! Congratulations on your modelling career, it’s great that you are doing something that makes you happy AND it sounds like you rock at it. Keep on being awesome ^____^

    Your boyfriend is being a jerk and weighting you down. Those are many mean things to say about you, no wonder you are feeling hurt. He should keep his opinions on your career to himself unless you ask him for them, and also apologise to you for hurting your feelings and dismissing and underestimating you.

  16. My current boyfriend is super supportive, especially of my completely unrealistic and everchanging carreer dreams, and honestly I really really really love that and I had no idea how good it felt. Now i wouldn’t accept anything else than a big “YEAH you should totally become a pilot, that sounds awesome!!”

    1. Right? After being with people who either actively discourage me or, just as bad, say that they want me to succeed but rarely bother to put action to words, being with someone who actually IS supportive is a fucking REVELATION. It’s like, Hey, I can actually tell her my dreams and she’ll be *interested*! She’ll be supportive and ask questions and pay attention! She won’t shit on my dreams or tell me they’re unrealistic or even just have a doubtful attitude, she’ll work with me to figure out how to make my dreams happen!

      HOLY CRAP THIS IS AWESOME. I’m so glad you have that too, and I wish more people did.

  17. I absolutely agree with the Captain that the LW’s boyfriend is probably jealous, but there’s something else that I think is also a factor – I suspect boyfriend is one of those people who thinks there’s no point trying at anything unless you can be one of the best at it. I bet he thinks “It’s all well and good for me to take my photography seriously because if I keep improving I may someday be the best, but it’s silly and embarrassing for LW to take her modeling seriously because no matter how hard she works, she will always be too short to be the best.”

    I think this mindset is very prevalent when it comes to creative persuits, despite the fact that it pretty obviously stifles creativity. I’m not sure what the right comparisons are for modeling, but personally I’m always fighting the idea that, like, there’s those just for fun painting nights you do with friends, and there’s being a “real painter” whose works are in museums, and there’s nothing in between, or, if there is something in between, it’s nothing more than failure to be the best. I always struggle to say “Yes, I’m a painter” and not “Oh, it’s just a hobby.”

    The comparison I always make to encourage myself is to running. We all know people for whom running is a huge part of who they are as a human being, even though they’re never going to go to the Olympics. And when someone comes in 100th place at a marathon, we don’t say “What a failure, you must be so embarrassed about wasting all that time training,” we say, “That’s amazing! Great job, most people never run a marathon!”

    I may have gotten a little off topic, but what I want to say to LW is this: Keep taking modeling seriously. Keep saying that it’s your “passion” not your “hobby”. Don’t let this dude convince you that there’s no point in trying unless you’re the best, or that you’re not a “real model” until you walk at NYFW. Be proud of what you’ve already accomplished! Most people never walk on a runway at all!

    1. This is such a good point and I love this entire comment. Not everyone’s idea of success is to be the absolute, #1, best in the world at what they do. It is 100% okay just to pursue creative dreams without the end goal of being a household name.

    2. This comment is pure truth. I think the “you have to be the best at it” mentality is strongly linked to perfectionism, which is the enemy of creativity and productivity. As one of the ladies from My Favorite Murder recently reminded me, it’s better to just make the thing (ANYthing) than to hold yourself back because it might not be perfect.

      LW, you might not be “perfect” or “the ultimate model”, but you’re working hard at something that excites you. Leave behind the negative perfectionist boyfriend and do whatever the hell you want, you motherf**cking goddess. ❤

  18. Add me to Team “I’d love to see her face” and I’m not even into fashion. She sounds amazing.

    He…sounds small. Wonder if he’s shorter than 5’7″?

    1. eh, the whole “small man” syndrome is kind of body-shamey and (sometimes) ableist. Jerks come in all sizes.

      1. Yeah, I’ve been seeing an uptick in making fun of short guys on the internet recently and it’s bumming me out. It’s body-shaming, it contributes to backwards ideas about masculinity and femininity, it can be ableist and racist, and it can be transphobic. I don’t want to derail with my experience on the final point, but…yeah, it’s not cool to imply that being short is a bad thing for men to be.

        1. Moderator Hat On:

          Making fun of short dudes is not good and not okay on this website.

    2. Can we not? Terrible boyfriends come in all shapes and sizes. Great boyfriends also come in all shapes and sizes. Assigning worth to someone based on their physical characteristics is shitty no matter who is doing it and who they’re doing it to.

  19. LW, to say that I have little interest in modelling is to say that fish have little interest in accounting. And if you managed to get a break due to lucky circumstances, I would *still* say ‘well done, good for you’.

    You didn’t stop there. You went the extra mile.

    What you’re doing sounds _awesome_ .

    I even came up with a concept for a photo-shoot. I made a head-piece, found a makeup artist, made sure to communicate how I want the lighting and am going to see my idea come into fruition.

    I have never, until now, thought of modelling as an art form – usually, it’s photographers who do the planning and set up the images, so well done you for taking creative control. (I wonder whether your boyfriend feels that you’re encroaching on his territory if you’re the artistic director in your own life?)

    You (probably) won’t walk in New York Fashion Week. He (equally likely) won’t photograph New York Fashion Week. Millions of people are real writers players without a NYT bestseller, real athletes without competing in the Olympics, real _anything_ without ever reaching the top of their professions because guess what: there’s not much room at the very very top and for every person making it there are probably a hundred others who could have been there if not for a twist of fate.

    Only Naomi Campbell is Naomi Campbell, and she probably isn’t a true representation of her own public image 100% of the time. Even famous people have off days and doubts. You sound like a second rate Naomi Campbell, and a top notch, first rate, spectacular YOU, so that is what you should continue to focus on, because you rock.

    1. Good point about Naomi Campbell, and to add, she probably heard 10,000 downer things about her chances of success on her way to where she is because racism and misogyny and body-shaming and “that’s just how the industry is.” She didn’t listen. Don’t you either.

      1. As a Black woman I’ll bet she got a triple dose every damn day, and still does.

    2. Good point. And you know who else isn’t Naomi Campbell? A ton of other successful models – successful on whatever scale they personally define as success, which is broad. They’re doing great, and so are you.

    3. This reminds me of Cindy Crawford’s response when someone said, “I sure don’t look like Cindy Crawford in the morning.” Her response? “Even I don’t look like Cindy Crawford in the morning,” In one interview I read where she referred to her made-up, hair-done, on-camera persona as “The Thing.”

      1. Was that the article where she talks about going to a newsstand to buy a copy of one of her early major magazine covers (with no makeup and her hair in a ponytail), and the newsstand guy tells her that she would “kinda” look like the model if she fixed herself up?

        1. Or even when models are all done up but don’t behave like models, they get flak. Anybody remember when some dude grabbed Gigi Hadid after a show and she elbowed him in the face? The picture went viral and people complained how un-model-like she looked. (I guess she should have just politely asked him to move away from her personal space, nevermind what his intentions could have been.) (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/gigi-hadid-fights-off-man-who-grabs-and-picks-her-up-outside-fas/)

    4. I wonder whether your boyfriend feels that you’re encroaching on his territory if you’re the artistic director in your own life?

      I wondered if your boyfriend had the unexamined assumption that he was entitled to your intellectual and artistic labor for his career. You sound like an absolute powerhouse. You sound like you’re sparkling. You sound, in short, like somebody with a lot of ideas that he can use or at least tuck into his back pocket without ever having to identify you publicly as their source.

      Maybe this isn’t how things are between you, but he wouldn’t be the first man to offer this implicit deal to a smart, creative woman: “You’re not the kind of person who gets to be a protagonist. Someone like you is never the center of the story, and we both know that. You’re never going to achieve all that much, because you don’t have that je ne sais quoi. But I can make it, and through me, your ideas can come to life. I’m their best chance. What do you say?”

      “Screw that,” is what I’ve learned to say. It’s tough, because the line is fine. Creative/intellectual people do talk and spark ideas off each other. So you think you’re having these wonderful conversations about art or philosophy– but it turns out you’re getting used for your ideas, or at least groomed for that use. It’s a different kind of objectification: instead of (or in addition to) being a sex object, you become a nurturance object, and the medium of that nurturance is your mind and soul.

      1. ABSOLUTELY. When he first insulted her and then offered to let her hold the lights for his photoshoot, that was a lightbulb moment for me (hah) – he wants her as his unpaid assistant, supporter, dog’s body, and he wants her to be grateful to him for including her in his work, waaaay in the background. It’s all about him.


          LW, please please learn the lesson my younger self did not. Break up with this boyfriend while you still love modeling, or you will find yourself breaking up with modeling to prove you still love him.

        1. Yeah, or something between that and the Mendelssohn Gambit. (Fanny wuz robbed.)

  20. “You have me kind of dying to see your photos because you sound so positive and cool and I want to see the face of the person who makes me feel this excited reading about her work! Just from your letter I can tell that you are stunning and striking and that people want to be around you.”

    This. Like, immediately.

    1. Yeah, me too. 🙂 Great advice from the Captain, and LW, you sound awesome. So talented and creative!

    2. Same! I mean, I 100% understand why we’re not going to, and that’s 110% reasonable. But you’re eloquent and inspiring and honestly I never thought of modelling as something that could be a hobby before. The world needs that kind of enthusiasm.

      1. This — I was trying to come back in and say “totes know this desire is not reasonable of me but DAMN GIRL” and you are much more eloquent than I.

  21. Dear LW,

    I too think that you will be happier without this boyfriend.

    From what you wrote about acne, and the boyfriend’s unkind comments I get the feeling that he’s always painted you as not so pretty. While the biggest element of his envy is artistic (you’re much more successful – and happier in your success – than he expected) another piece is that he thinks you’re (about to be) out of his league in beauty.

    So he’s trying to cut you down that way too.

    LW, I don’t think he’s a good match for you.

    1. Acne can really mess up your own perception of your looks for a long time (I was on Retin A and Accutane at the same time) and there are people out there who are absolutely fine with a person not perceiving that they actually have good skin/hair now, that they are no longer awkward and broken out. That they have grown up and out.

  22. I’m reminded of the stories I heard when I joined a roller derby team. Apparently it’s very common for us skating ladies to be told we can’t do roller derby. To the point that one of the first questions I was asked was what my boyfriend had to say about me doing roller derby. (Answer: “cool, tell me all about it!”)

    I’m baffled by people who try to tell me what I’m capable of. I’m the one who knows what’s in my brain and my heart and my body, so how could anyone possibly know better than me? *I* know that I can’t skate backwards (yet). LW, *you* know what you can and cannot do. Anybody trying to answer that question for you is like a fish trying to fix a bike.

    1. Derby fistbumps from a fellow skater. You sound like you’ve got a great attitude to derby and so does your boyfriend 🙂

      Eventually you’ll skate backwards, eventually I’ll do a hockey stop. We’ll get there because we respect where we’re at and don’t let anyone tell us otherwise.

  23. LW, you are never to old to follow your dreams, do the things you want to do, live your life the way you want. Surround yourself with people who are supportive of those dreams. Follow your passions-that’s the exciting part of life!! And, WOW, you’re a model!! That’s your passion; go with it! See how far it will take you! Dream big! Dude is only holding you back, saying don’t dream big, don’t do what you want. Drop him like a piece of hot lava. ‘listen to your heart’.

  24. The whole jealousy thing – totally on target. My DH could not stand that I was pretty high up the ladder in something he never even tried, yet he felt justified in giving me advice on how to do it.

    And FWIW, I totally love Stanley Tucci, from “Big Night” through to “Julie and Julia”.

  25. If being as good as Naomi Campbell is the bar, then I sure hope your boyfriend is as good as Mario Testino or Steve McCurry, or else he’d best just put the camera away now, sell his equipment and give up.

    Or.. oh wait, is that not how this works? No, it’s not!

    Naomi Campbell isn’t a model. She’s a supermodel. There’s only ever a tiny number of them working at any one time, and they’re part of an extremely exclusive bleeding edge of modelling talent. No one who compares themselves to her is going to match her except other supermodels. And that’s got nothing to do with how well you’ll do at your career.

    If the only writers who ever bothered to write a page were the ones “good enough” to write instant classics then we’d have no books. If the only artists who ever picked up a brush or put chisel to marble were the ones “good enough” to explode the existing standards out of the water then poor old Van Gogh would never have created even the art he did manage to produce, ignored as he was in life.

    You don’t have anything to prove to this boyfriend of yours, or to anyone else. You’ve already succeeded! You’re already doing the thing you love and making a success of it! Fuck that guy.

    1. Beautifully said. Creativity doesn’t require justification or approval or “reality checking” – it doesn’t need to serve anyone or anything but itself.

      Dear LW, if modeling and creating art and experimenting with the different facets of art and fashion bring you joy and energize you, that is all the reason you needs to do it. There’s no permission slip for that other than the one you give yourself. Go forth, model, create and be happy!

    2. ^^^^ exactly!!!! ^^^^ Ohhh I’m yelling because this is so true. Dude is a well-known local photographer, which is cool and all, but now LW is a professional model he shifts the goalposts for her to Naomi Campbell? Hmm. Okay, my man.

      Campbell got support from *her fellow models* who stood up to the racist industry and refused jobs unless Campbell also worked with them. It is necessary, at every level, to surround yourself with people who have your back.

  26. Oh, Seven Hells, DTMFA.

    This isn’t a matter of, “I’m worried about what’ll happen if you quit your day job.” You still have your day job! This isn’t constructive criticism; nothing he’s saying is helping you get better at your art. This isn’t a matter of “You can’t expect everything to fall into place for you.” No, you’re making it happen! You know your age, you know your height, you’re still doing what it takes to pay the bills, and you’re still making the magic happen!

    My dearest LW, you can do so much better than you’re getting from that dude, and you DESERVE better. Those who say a thing can’t be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it. Dump that asshole, make your beautiful things, and let your gorgeous flag fly. If Captain won’t post some photos from your awesome headpiece concept, I will. If she will post the photos, I’ll post them too.

  27. I once saw this happen from the outside. I work in film and early in my career was on an indie shoot with relatively experienced older DOP who was really doing the director a favor by being there. He seemed very impressed with me, which was exciting because it’s hard to get noticed in the camera department if you’re a woman. Most DOPs just assume you can’t do the job and won’t give you a shot. But then I started to realize that he only ever complimented me when his (much younger than him) girlfriend was around. She was doing a job outside the camera department (a job I find to be, personally, impossibly beyond my skill set) which required a lot of attention to detail and care and he spent every moment that he wasn’t working or praising me absolutely tearing her down– she wasn’t doing her job right, she was careless, she’d never get hired on a real film, etc. She was relatively new to the job– mistakes were made– but none were catastrophic, and we all make mistakes (even professionals!), AND this was a volunteer job and she wasn’t getting paid. It was very gross to realize that I was being used to tear another woman down in an industry that doesn’t have enough women in it as it is!

    It was absolutely about control. He was in the waning years of his career and he liked being the expert about the industry and so he constantly put her down to make her feel like she needed his expertise and that she’d never advance without him (Even though she wasn’t even in his department!!) and to make sure she’d never be more powerful than he would be. Once I figured out what was going on I reached out and talked to her at lunch and offered as many compliments on her work as I could, but I never felt I could stand up to him directly, which upsets me to this day (even though standing up to him would probably have made him take it out on her even worse!).

    Anyway, good on you LW for identifying this early, not falling for it, and (hopefully) getting out. It can be very hard to dump someone who you feel could help your career, so I’m glad you’ve already got the network established so that you don’t feel like you need him. He will probably tell you some very hurtful things when you dump him in one last ditch effort to feel like the expert and the one in control, but just keep reminding yourself that you’re already a professional model, who is too busy being a model to deal with people who are going to be professionally jealous. Please be proud of yourself and realize that the insight you’ve shown here will also help insulate you from other abuses in the industry, like crappy agents. You seem very well-suited to the work!

  28. Just because society has gotten it into it’s head that only 6′, size 0, (mostly) white, ablebodied, 20 year old women can be models doesn’t mean that the rest of everyone should sit on their hands and it it happen- nor that we need downer boyfriends to remind us of all the stereotypes we don’t fit. You are ALREADY a model, you are already doing what you have a passion for, you are designing photo shoots, you are walking runways, you are making it happen (you are BOOKED TILL THE FALL, holy cow.). He should either catch up or get out because otherwise he is holding you back.

    I wonder if I am the only one imagining a world, after reading this letter, where new york fashion week is comprised of hundreds of women (and men) with hundreds of backgrounds, body types, skin colors, and ages – as diverse as people really are. I would be way more interested in the industry if i felt like it was more relevent to my life, personally. I saw a photo shoot recently of a series of older women (60, 70, 80) who had died their hair fabulous colors and were wearing the most eyecatching and ridiculously complicated and beautiful outfits, and the photos were divine. They were no where near 20, they appeared to be all different sizes, and just seeing the pictures made me excited to get older.

    I am so happy you are fufilling your dreams. Keep getting them. Leave the loser bf behind.

    1. One of my best friends is working to make stock photos more diverse, and I’ve seen some of her stuff; it’s AMAZING. Beauty is there in everyone if you know how to find it (and she’s very good at finding it and getting it in pixels). I’ve found that after consciously expanding the diversity of the media I watch, mainstream stuff is so very weird and restrictive to me. I like seeing people who I could pass on the street, people who I might exchange small talk with over a cup of coffee, people who are…. well, people, not polished, unblemished paragons of perfection.

      LW, you sound like an absolute delight, both in appearance and personality, and I bet the local photogs really enjoy working with you. Best of luck, and I agree, ditch the boyfriend; he’s bringing you down and you can fly much higher without him (whatever that means to you). 🙂

  29. I was actually thinking about something a bit similar this morning–what I internally refer to as my “Fanfic Test.” I write fanfic. Have since I was 12 or 13. I love writing, I love writing about characters, I love digging deep into a world and getting my hands on all the moving parts. It’s a hobby I love and will continue to love for a very long time. I don’t do a ton of “original” writing, and I don’t have a ton of interest in it. I have no plans of publishing or going pro or anything. And I am 100% happy with that.

    So. When I go on dates with guys from OkCupid or the like, they almost inevitably ask what kind of writing I do, because my profile mentions I’m a writer. And I’ll tell them I write fanfic, and then watch their reactions. Do they look weirded out? Do they look uncomfortable? Do they immediately change the subject and pretend I didn’t just say something that bizarre and embarrassing? If yes, guess who isn’t getting a second date! (Spoiler: most don’t.) If the guy asks a few questions, demonstrates even a little interest, then he passes my test. Doesn’t mean he’s getting that second date for sure, but his chances just went up.

    I don’t need a potential boyfriend to write fic, or even to read the stuff I write. But he damn well better respect the fact that this is something I love, something I pour a lot of time and energy into, and he needs to support me in it even if he doesn’t share my interest. Listen to me complain about writer’s block, ask if I managed to get past said writers block, congratulate me and be excited when I tell him about a great comment I got on a work I posted. That’s what I expect out of a partner.

    That’s what you deserve to have, LW. You deserve a partner who will see all the work you’ve done and praise it, who will listen when you need to vent about your struggles (without telling you that those struggles are proof you should just give it up!), will cheer your successes. Someone who will be excited for you, because they love you and want you to succeed. Your current partner does not sound like he wants you to succeed. Somewhere out there is the person who will.

    1. From another fic writer whose spouse thinks fic is a vaguely baffling hobby and is super-supportive nonetheless–this!

      1. adding my this, and a side-note about the Right One: My best friend’s husband is more than a little bewildered by our shared fannishness BUT! Not only does he not complain/get uncomfortable about the fanfic he’s read some of it (because we talked about it and he was curious) AND he’s provided input on a couple of things where he had direct life experience and we didn’t. So, you know. I think this is a super-awesome way to figure out if a person can respect your hobbies and be supportive.

  30. Bravo to LW for doing the hard work to make her dreams work! And I agree with the Captain and everyone telling you he’s holding you back.

    One non-relationship thing I’d like to add: I’m in the handmade scene in the SF Bay Area and make jewelry. Lots of folks here make accessories or clothing, and none of the fashion photos I’ve seen look like they used New York supermodels. Some, I’m sure, are just the maker or their friends, but others definitely hire models. The point is to make the product look appealing and fit the brand image. Handmade-level designers are usually looking for an indie feeling and it wouldn’t work to have someone 6′ tall and size 0. I get the feeling you project a lot of personality and energy, instead of just doing the thousand yard stare (which I find off-putting. There’s also a more mainstream fashion industry in SF that I expect will be different than NYC’s.

    There’s plenty of room in fashion for people who are making a living* at what they love without trying to be the most famous.

    *or significant side gig in this age of the second and third job

  31. There are times when it’s appropriate to give a loved one a reality check: when chasing a dream is causing extreme hardship or damage to the dreamer and the people around him/her, when s/he is fixated on the [potentially unrealistic] end-goal and refuses to try for intermediate goals because they are “less”, when the dreamer has demonstrated an inability to handle rejection and set-backs emotionally, etc. I don’t see any of that in this letter. This LW sounds perfectly happy with the niche she’s carved for herself, and it sounds like she’s struck the right balance between stretching herself, and not making unreasonable sacrifices. I hope she continues to be able to do that.

    Unless the boyfriend is a casting agent for one or more of the designers who put on shows during New York Fashion Week, it’s actually not for him to say whether or not the LW will ever walk in it—not that that appears to be a dream of the LW’s (participating in NYFW is clearly a dream of his, though). Since we’ve established that the LW’s fashion-related work and activities aren’t actually hurting her or anyone else, this boyfriend needs to—at minimum—keep his negative opinions to himself.

    See also: anyone who has ever discouraged someone else from applying for a job they wanted, or to their dream college, or for a scholarship to fund their studies/travels/whatever else.* Unless you are actually the person who gets to decide these things, your opinion means bupkis, so keep it to yourself. No one needs to be a punching bag for your feelings of inadequacy. Personally, I think this LW could probably find someone better for her than the guy she’s currently with.

    *Unless the costs of applying cause hardships of some kind, re: my first paragraph.

  32. LW Boyfriend is doing what my father did to me my whole life. When I finally got old enough to call him on it, he said he was only doing it so I wouldn’t get hurt by the realities of whatever dream I was chasing. Some people have weird ideas of what protecting someone they have involves.

    1. Agreed. What is the logic behind that exactly, “My time is so precious, I want to make sure you are miserable now just in case I have to deal with you being miserable later”?

    2. Oh gosh, yes. This is one of the Reasons We Don’t Talk Much.

      I got one of those phone calls the other day, to “gently let me down” about something I was excited about. (Because nothing says “relevant to my life” better than random-ass phone calls where someone whose opinion I don’t care about tells me all about a conversation they had with someone I don’t know.)

      And guess what?

      I’m doing the thing. The very thing my father called to “let me down gently” about. Because screw that noise. 😀

      LW, do the thing. Do the thing that calls to you, and if anyone tells you “you can’t” when you’re in the middle of doing the thing? Those who say ‘can’t be done’ need to get out of the way of those who are doing.

      1. When I started to sew, my father repeatedly told me to never attempt a shirt with a banded collar, because it was just “too hard” The last time he ever said that was when I asked him to clarify what he meant by a “man’s style shirt collar” and I told him I’d already done two shirts with that kind of collar.

        1. Off topic, but: yay for you!

          I love sewing too. Banded collars are awesome to wear, and while they’re not my favorite thing to make, they’re also not the end of the world.

          (Sleeve plackets, now. *Grumble*)

  33. Okay, I am in 100% agreement with the advice here and in comments. I do, however, for the sake of completeness, want to throw one thing out there.

    Is it possible that his behavior is being guided by a tremendously faulty assumption on his part that LW doesn’t know how hard this can be, and is honestly trying to keep her from being disappointed? Because as much as I hate to admit it I myself have been guilty of this in the past. I didn’t want them to get their hopes up. This came from a place of thinking “if you are not the best, you are nothing”, and me wanting to save them the disappointment I felt when I couldn’t be the best at what I wanted. It was fucked up. I was wrong. Thank goodness, I’ve clued up and I feel really bad about it now.

    I don’t necessarily think this is the case. At the very least I think his remarks to the effect of “this is just how people in the industry talk to each other” cast serious doubt on that. But people are capable of doing some remarkably misguided things in the name of trying to protect their partners from disappointment, absolutely up to and including tearing them right back down just as soon as they seem to be getting anywhere. I wanted to throw that out there.

    I absolutely do think leaving him would be an appropriate response to this, regardless of his intentions. LW should proceed knowing that ditching his unsupportive ass would be 100% okay. There is no obligation here to help him work through his feelings about LW’s modeling. That’s his row to hoe and he needs to work his shit out on his own.

    1. The thing is, even if it’s coming from a desire to be helpful, it’s not actually helpful. The effect is not protective, helpful. Disappointment will come whether or not he saved her from it. So far it’s not coming, though?

      1. Yeah, it’s not helpful at all!

        I have been on both sides of it and under neither circumstance was it even remotely helpful and nobody got anything favorable out of it. Like, it was such a frigging mess, my god.

        I just wanted to point out this angle, because a lot of comments seem to be focusing on *jealousy* as the reason for this unacceptable behavior.

        I suppose, though, it’s kind of irrelevant. LW is not obligated to put up with it at all and would be fully justified in leaving regardless of the cause.

        I am so stoked that LW is doing so well at this new and exciting thing and is trying to set boundaries to prevent this behavior!

        1. I agree that he could have good intentions, but we all know where that road leads. 😉 The “you’re no Naomi Campbell” bit just strikes me as mean and inexcusable. Regardless, if the LW has told him that his comments are hurtful and discouraging, he needs to stop.

      2. To Quote Shel Silverstein:

        “Some kinds of help are the kind of help
        that helping’s all about,

        And some kinds of help are the kind of help
        We all could do without.”

        This is definitely the latter kind.

    2. Yeah, there are lots of reasons people say these sorts of things. It can be jealousy. It can be because you’ve heard people say this stuff to YOU all your life and you think it was okay for them to say it to you, so why wouldn’t it be okay for you to say it to other people? It can be because, as the LW’s boyfriend says, this is how everyone in the industry behaves and he’s never questioned it.

      None of this makes it OK. But it’s up to the LW to decide if this is a reason to dump him, or just a reason to call him on being unsupportive, keep following her dreams, refuse to justify herself to him (because there is nothing to justify) and see if he improves. Maybe he will.

      I know there have been times in my relationship where I’ve said “but this is just how people behave” and my partner has said “no, it’s not, and it hurts me, so stop,” and I have learned to stop. Maybe the LW’s boyfriend can also learn to stop. Or maybe not. I don’t think we really know as readers whether this is true one way or the other.

    3. Maybe, but…it doesn’t matter. If this were somebody in my life’s idea of protection, I’d be: thanks but just leave me to the bears.

  34. LW your boyfriend is not giving you reality checks, he is gratuitously insulting you. A reality check looks like this: first you generally ask for an honest opinion, rather than it coming to you unsolicited. You’d say something like, “do you think I can succeed at this?” and then he would give a straightforward assessment, something like, “well, you’re 30, and you’re 5-foot -7, so I think you might want to manage your expectations around this.” That would be a very blunt sort of “reality check,” but notice that there is no sarcasm; it’s just a rational assessment.

    Most people would take your feelings into account when giving a reality check, and include some kind words along with the hard truth, so it ultimately would sound something like, “you’re very beautiful, extremely photogenic, and hard-working, so you have that in your favor; on the other hand, you’re 30 and you’re 5-foot -7, so I think you might want to manage your expectations around this.” I would definitely expect my boyfriend to take my feelings into account, even if I wanted honesty.

    That is altogether different than saying snide things like, “you’re no Naomi Campbell.” Did you ever assert that you were? Is there even a logical basis for him saying that? Of course not. He’s just choosing to insult you. He is choosing to wound you. It has nothing whatsoever to do with reality checks; he is just being a jerk. I hope you dump him, but if you’re not ready for that, I hope you can at least tell him “stop insulting me,” and if he pushes back by telling you that’s how industry people talk, you can tell him 1) that you don’t have a professional relationship with him, 2) that you don’t owe him an ear to his unsolicited feedback, and 3) that he needs to knock it off, period. But really you should just dump him. If he’s saying these mean things, I can’t imagine that the rest of the relationship is really all that satisfying.

  35. LW, you are hella amazing.

    Go. Live your dream.

    (Flynn: “I will.” Thug: “Your dream stinks. I was talking to her.”)

  36. Good for you for pursuing your passion, and dump that asshole if he can’t be supportive of your ACTUAL success! I agree with the assessment that he is jealous. There’s only room for one successful person in his ideal partnership and that person had better be him. You don’t need that.

  37. Just because you’re not Naomi Campbell (i.e. at the top of your field) doesn’t mean your work doesn’t have value, either to yourself or to others. It’s really shitty of your boyfriend to imply that you’re not a good model or that your work isn’t valuable just because you’re not making 10K a day or whatever.

  38. If you’re like me, somewhere in this letter and CA’s response, you started singing Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” and changed the lyric to “I’m too sexy for this jerk/ too sexy for this jerk/ so sexy it hurts.”

  39. The comment on jealousy reminds me of a podcast on Lucille Ball I listened to a while back. Apparently her first husband, Desi Arnaz, *hated* being referred to in the press as “Lucille Ball’s husband”. As much has he may have genuinely loved her, he just couldn’t get past the fact that she was even more of a household name than he was. She later married Gary Morton, a successful but not world-famous comedian, and his reaction to being “Lucille Ball’s husband” was basically “yeah, I know, isn’t it awesome??”. LW, you want the second kind of dude.

    1. Desi Arnaz also cheated on Lucille Ball repeatedly during their relationship. It was an obsession with him.

  40. Hell yes to the Captain’s response. I was so hoping she would just lay it all out there and she did. I didn’t even get half way through the letter before I knew that this guy is jealous of and intimidated by the LW. He wants to make you feel small and keep you under his thumb. Buh-bye! Leave him behind and do your thing.

  41. You’re no Naomi Campbell? Well sure, but he isn’t Annie Leibovitz either.
    Maybe all this jealousy and projection stems from him wanting to be more than just a local photographer (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
    You’re getting booked and that’s all the proof you need that you’re good at what you’re doing.

  42. Lw’s story reminds me of my own. I earned my MBA last year, as a married woman with two small children. It meant a huge boost to my income earning potential and more letters to add after my name. As I put on my cap and gown on my graduation day, I had a brief feeling of sadness knowing that my newest accomplishment might make my husband feel “less than.”

    Boy was I wrong! He was so happy for me, telling me how sharp I looked in my graduation outfit. He blew up Facebook with pictures of me holding my diploma and told his whole world how proud he was of me and how happy he was that our boys have such a “smart Mama”.

    He was my Stanley Tucci that day. You, LW, deserve no less than a partner who blows up Facebook with an equal amount of pride in YOU! Find your Stanley!

    1. This made me shed a little happy tear. Congrats to you on this major accomplishment! And props to your husband for being exactly the kind of partner everyone deserves – and for setting an incredible example for your boys of what it means to truly love and support someone. (Particularly a woman).

    2. Awww! My wife was so excited when I passed the bar exam that she cried for joy, accidentally beat me to the punch on the Facebook announcement of it, and when I had the actual licensing ceremony, FILLED Facebook with photos of me and my license!

      That’s the sort of partner one needs.

    3. wow, you made me cry with happiness for you and your family and for humankind that there are people like your husband and you. thank you

  43. Come for the great advice, stay for the Stanley Tucci pix!

    Seriously, though, LW, the boyfriend/lover/friend/family member who scoffs at your hopes and diminishes your dreams and ambitions is not worth wasting your precious, unique life on. You have a business plan, you are already doing what you want to do, and and you are succeeding.

    I must add, though, given how gossipy your industry is, and how reputation matters, cut him loose kindly.

  44. I have a, frankly, silly passion lately. To the point where I’m embarrassed to admit it!

    …I hand-copy books. Like a medieval monk! There’s absolutely no need to! I don’t know why, maybe the act of cursive writing is calming? Maybe I like using all the old blank notebooks people give writing-since-childhood me? Maybe it helps me really re-experience my favorite books?

    I’m not even that good, since I can’t draw for r shit, and don’t have fancy gear or paper right for calligraphy. But my handwriting is improving! And I like to see how far I’ve gotten!

    My wife kind of laughed when I told her what I was doing, but then later said “it will be nice to be able to read to our future kids from something you did, and good to have a copy that isn’t the physical, expensive, hardcover book itself,” and that she thinks it’s neat I take on and stick with a project that long, just because I have paper and I can. Nothing about how it’s essentially pointless!

    LW, if my wife can manage to support my pointless project, can’t your husband support your hobby that is actually going places?

    1. That sounds like a lovely hobby. I find writing things out by hand very calming, and I find that it gives me the time to really *think about* what I’m writing and understand it more deeply. That’s a beautiful way to get to know a book you love better.

      1. Aww, thanks people! I am actually doing the “Harry Potter” series, plus the fanfic “Dumbledore’s Army and the Year of Darkness,” which is sort of a book 6.5 focusing on Hogwarts and the DA while Harry is away hunting Horcruxes.

        I am on page 46 of Prisoner of Azkaban now. 🙂

    2. …I hand-copy books. Like a medieval monk!

      That sounds so lovely and relaxing! And would make the most amazing keepsakes for your future kids!

    3. That sounds like an awesome thing to do. And even if you can’t ‘draw for shit’, at least draw for giggles!

    4. I love that you hand copy books! And if you are still improving then that is reason enough to carry on; your finest work is still in front of you, just waiting to appear one day.

      Love those books; love that you spend time creating them.

    5. This actually sounds like an awesome hobby, and I am now itching to get a nice notebook and pen and give it a try!

    6. I used to do that! Not even awesome copies, just copies in tiny handwriting in mini journals! I am so excited to internet meet you!

  45. LW, you are:

    – Beautiful enough to be a model
    – A young woman in real-world years
    – Positive, creative, brave and fun

    I don’t think it’d be hard for you to find another man. And I think another man with a better attitude is what you deserve.

    1. And even if it is hard, or you don’t want, “to find another man” – might you be better off with no man than with this one?

  46. In the last two years, my husband has gotten into lifting weights, and it turns out he’s pretty good at it, plus he really enjoys it as well. He can bench press significantly more than his own body weight at this point. I’ve recently gotten into lifting weights, too. I’m probably never going to bench press my body weight. It’s just not in the cards biologically for me to lift even a fraction of what my husband does. Being able to bench press JUST THE BAR was a pretty big accomplishment. My husband’s response to this teeny, tiny victory was to congratulate me and give me a high five and a sweaty hug. He has never given me a “reality check” or said a single word to discourage me, even though it’s super duper obvious that we’ll never be on the same playing field. Instead, he squeezes my barely-there bicep muscles and tells me I’m doing a killer job. That’s what a good, secure partner does.

    Also, as others have said a million times: YOU ARE ALREADY A MODEL. You are booking gigs and literally modeling. He needs to get with the program or GTFO. You do you!

    1. Yes! My husband is a runner with a goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon and he probably will, too. I’m on week 9 of my first couch-to-5K and am still not entirely convinced I’m going to make it to my first race next week. But on the days I run, he programs my runs into his Garmin for me, he comes back from his long morning runs and gives me a humidity report, before I got my own headphones he would give his up for me to use (which was a big sacrifice as it meant he had to ride public transit without them), he always asks me how my runs went and sincerely cares about my answer, and he plans to run the race next to me even though he literally walks faster than I run. It’s an amazing feeling and I want the LW to have a partner who does the same.

    2. I’m a medium sized cisgender woman who started off not able to bench the bar, and I can bench my body weight!
      I know that wasn’t the point of your very lovely comment, but I just don’t want you to believe that goal in particular is too far out there.

  47. OP- For what it’s worth, I’m NYC based and know quite a few models over the age of 30 (even over 35!) who are regularly being booked for work- including NY Fashion Week. Right now it sounds like you’re happy with the momentum of your new career, you are booking work, and you’re living your dreams. Please don’t listen to anybody’s nonsense that interferes with your joy in your success.

  48. LW, I’m gonna repeat after everybody who said you’re already doing amazing.

    I was so impressed reading your letter: you’re doing something you love, getting paid for it, you are pursuing your own project, you’re meeting interesting people… And doing it all while being “ancient in modelling years”? Hell yeah, we need more people breaking the norm. If anything, managing to successfully start modelling later than usual is even more of a success! You didn’t let it stop you and it shows so much courage and willingness to go against the expectations.

    EVEN IF your boyfriend was right on the technical details (which he doesn’t seem to be), you didn’t ask him for feedback or advice, you asked him for support. EVEN IF you had asked for advice, he should have been honest but also kind. This man is not kind to you and doesn’t sound like he wants you to succeed at all. He’s not saying you can’t because it’s true, he’s saying you can’t cause he doesn’t want you to.

    Go on your adventure, make your project amazing, meet great people along the way. There are gonna be kind men who are drawn to you and your enthusiasm and strength, not threatened by it. There are gonna be men who believe in you and want to support you. Dump your boyfriend and go follow your passion, and I bet you’ll meet amazing people who will be equally amazed by you.

    1. “Hell yeah, we need more people breaking the norm.”
      Oh yes, there’s nothing more frustrating than seeing models who look about 12 modelling clothing that is supposed to be for full grown adult women. We want to see what stuff looks like on a mature body!

  49. I am receptionist at a gymnastics club and the head coach gave me a tidbit to pass on to parents that ask about encouraging their kids in competitive gymnastics. Family/Friends are the cheerleaders, the coaches/professionals are the bad guy. Your (soon-to-be-ex-I-hope) boyfriend is not your cheerleader, he is acting like the bad guy.

    You aren’t Naomi Campbell because she’s off somewhere busy being Naomi Campbell. However you could channel your inner NC and throw your mobile phone at him as a parting gesture*.

    (I don’t really advocate violence, but the idea of shutting his not-Naomi commentary up like that would be hilarious to imagine in a slapstick sort of way… We can but fantasise…)

    Also, congratulations and thank you to the Captain for 1000+ letters!

    1. Teachers/coaches need to be supportive, too. Direct and pointing out flaws, yes, but you can do that in an encouraging manner that makes students WANT to work harder, or you can tear them down. Some (very few) people thrive on adverseness and go ‘I’ll prove to coach that I CAN do it’, but a lot of them do not. That does not mean they’re rubbish, it just means they’re not good under extreme (and often hostile) pressure.

      1. She meant it in terms of the bad guy who makes them do the boring stuff or makes them work on the bits they don’t enjoy and who is direct about what is/isn’t correct, and that parents/friends just cheer on everything the young gymnasts do.

        The boyfriend in this situation is definitely in the tear-down side of being a bad guy, he’s not making OP do something she’s bored by, he’s trying to actively discourage her from doing what she wants. My original point is still that he’s a) not a professional model talent person (I feel like coach is the wrong word, but I can’t remember the right word) and b) not being a supportive part of Team OP, which we all know he ought to be.

        1. Ah, that sounds much better. (I have seen too much of the ‘tear down’ style of “teaching”; it really raised my hackles.

  50. Someone who loves you encourages you in the things that make you happy (assuming your passion doesn’t hurt others).

    He’s not capable of it and therefore you need to find someone who is. Move on, do not settle.

    I wish this was apparent to more people. It’s sad to think of all those tied to those who drag them down.

  51. I think you are spot on, Cap’n! LW, your bf has not only some major jealousy issues but also some arrogance issues as well. If he really loved you, he *may* still warn you of some things, but he would frame it in a more supportive way that he is willing to help and support you. It sounds like your bf isn’t willing to do any of those things. He wouldn’t even sound like a good friend to me because friends are willing to support and help you through things, and if they don’t agree with your dreams, they leave it alone and don’t tear you down because of that. It’s sad that he feels that he has to put you down in order to build himself up. This is just me, but if I were you LW, I would break up with him asap! I am a blogger, and if the person I dated criticized me and squashed MY dreams of becoming successful, I probably tell him off by saying, “We’re done! Come back when you become more humble and kind!”

  52. My only comment is on the Captain’s word “jealous.” I’d say “threatened.”

    Maybe both.

    1. Both. Definitely both. Women with power and momentum can be very scary for a certain type of dude.

    2. Threatened like crazy! Having you hold lights was their way of trying to reestablish the pecking order. I shoot, the pretty models stand in front of the camera, and you stay out of the way and hold this for us while the PROFESSIONAL (US not you) work. He liked being the cool creative photographer with the helper girlfriend who supports him in his vision. He liked you being around as his pretty girlfriend and unpaid assistant who kept quiet and let the professionals work.

      News flash, you’re a professional now too. The moment people pay you to do a thing, you’re doing it professionally. You’re booking shoots, you’re wrangling the talent, you’re concepting the project and you’re making it all come together to produce a cool image. He’s never going to be comfortable around that because his worldview is too small to accommodate the idea of a partner with equal or greater talent than his. He liked having you in the background while he worked, and he won’t let you out of that spot easily. The moment you have a shoot of your own happening on the day he was going to ask you (probably last minute) to hold his lights again, you’ll really see his true self. Spoiler alert: It’s not pretty.

      There are better people out there who will be thrilled to be in a relationship with someone as driven and creative and organized as you. Go find one of them.

  53. LW, I don’t normally get on the break-up train on CA but, your boyfriend reminds me of my ex who, when I would get excitedly happy, would tell me disapprovingly to calm down.

    He was not a safe person to hold my expressive joy and your boyfriend is not a safe person to hold your beautiful, precious dreams.

    And our joy and dreams are US. Trying to separate ourselves from those aspects so we can continue to be with specific people would lead to parts of our hearts breaking, and I expect it would be much harder to mend those parts than any heartbreak caused by leaving a boyfriend.

    1. We just had a huge discussion on the evilness that is the phrase “Calm down” elsenet. I am glad he is your ex.

      1. It wasn’t the happiness so much as the expression of it (or maybe that distinction doesn’t matter). I always used to think that bouncing a little with joy was something he didn’t want others to see (both times we were alone but people could have come by) for some kind of “this isn’t proper / normal” reason of his. But now that you mention controlling, I do think he didn’t like it himself, and just wanted me in a nice little box.

        1. I always squeal and clap my hands when I am happy, even if it’s something simple like the waiter bringing the glass of milk I ordered to the table. Yes, I drink milk in public. Yes, I clap my hands and squeal in public. People always think it’s cute and tell me so. I don’t mind being considered cute. I am also 42.

  54. In addition to all the other lovely and encouraging comments, I would like to cheer for your use of Stanley Tucci as Mr. Julia Child. Because Stanley Tucci seems to often play these characters. He makes me smile.

  55. LW, I’m really sad that you have to frame it as “half of me thinks we can still be together, the other half of me wants to pursue this.”

    I’m not sad because I think you’re wrong. I’m sad because I think you’re right; that being with him and pursuing the awesome career you have as a professional model that has people booking you months in advance are mutually exclusive. And realizing that hurts.

    (I don’t think it always has to be this way. I think that with some partners, it is possible to draw a hard “Hey, I do not need mean reality checks from you, I need SUPPORT” boundary, and they will clue the fuck in and start being your supportive caring partner. But I get the sense this isn’t happening here, and that he is still not granting his approval. If he was, you wouldn’t be sad because you aren’t getting it.)

    Fuck his approval. He is too small to give it. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I know you care about him and value his approval and want him to support your dream. I’m sorry he isn’t big enough to step up and support you.

    Even if you give up this dream and find another, do you think he’d be any better about the next one?

    You deserve better. You deserve a life with someone who is not constantly picking at you and dragging you down.

  56. My ex and my mother did this sort of thing… they said they were “managing my expectations.”

    Teenage me: I want to go to school and study broadcasting
    Mom: You’re probably never going to be put on the air, that’s really rare.

    Teenage me: I want to be a photographer.
    Mom: You probably aren’t ever going to get published.

    Married me: I’m thinking of applying for this promotion.
    Ex: Well, you get so stressed out when you’re studying, you probably shouldn’t apply.

    Now me: [crickets in background]
    Mom: you never tell me what you’re working on anymore!

    Now me to now partner: I’m thinking of developing a line of stationary and opening my own e-store.
    Now partner: You would be so good at that.

    now me to partner: I’ve always wanted to be a photographer.
    Partner: OMG, I love cameras. Here is my camera, do you like it? Do you want one just like it? Let’s go on a photo safari and here’s a school I took classes from and LET’S BE FRIENDS ON FLICKR!!!ZOMG! You’re better than me, let’s travel to more places so you can take more pictures of things!

    (I’m not better than him, we just have a different eye for things, which I tell him.)

    1. Can I just say, “let’s travel to more places so you can take more pictures of things” sounds like a really joyful celebration of your lives and each other, regardless of whether you can take a photograph for shit? It sounds like you can, but even if you couldn’t it sounds like you’ve got a person who is jazzed to share your interests and your time, and, man, we could all use that. Take note, LW! It don’t gotta be this way! Your boyfriend is not your manager and he does not have to “manage your expectations.” There’s room for generally well-meaning people to make a joke that reads shitty, or to try to look out for your interests in a way that is stifling when they meant protective, but daily reminders that you’re 5’7″ ain’t it.

  57. If I had a nickel for every time someone told me I wasn’t good enough, thin enough, talented enough, smart enough, or extroverted enough and framed it as “I’m telling you this for your own good,” I’d be a fucking millionaire.

    I so wish I hadn’t listened. I spent way too many years listening to those people and letting them be around me and influence how I thought of myself. LW, as soon as someone does this to you, know that they are not doing you a favor, they are just being mean because of their own insecurities, and evaluate whether or not you really want them in your life. People like that are usually dead weight.

    1. Yup. I’m actually mildly jealous of LW. Not because of the career (which is epic!), but because LW has the guts to think Nope, I’m doing this!
      Amazing stuff. 🙂

  58. Oh LW, my heart is going out to you! I know you’re giving him the benefit of the doubt but he is cutting your confidence off at the knees.

    I wish I’d had this 8 years ago- I was seeing someone who oscillated between ignoring/diminishing my creative work and also threatening to leave me if I wasn’t more of a success at it.
    He was controlling and even though he’d been attracted to my being so “unusual” he was determined to get me small enough to fit in the girlfriend box and nothing more.
    I wish I’d left when he was only undermining my profession- he started to encourage others to tease me and refused to acknowledge this huge part of me. My confidence was shattered.

    But I left him! Somehow! And spent years getting rid of his voice in my head, every time I wanted to be brave and follow my dreams, there he was, making me small. It’s a lot to undo and I wouldn’t wish that on LW- you have incredible spirit.

    The captain is right- the world will knock you back quite enough, your partner should support you. A good partner sees what makes you come alive and loves the sparkle in your eyes when you talk about it!

    You deserve that- you sound like such an awesome person!

  59. LW, you already ARE a model. A working model.
    My best friend was a model. She was a model until the day she died at 71, and I can hear the dressing down she’d give your boyfriend. She’d tell him that you’re doing everything right, that being booked up the way you are shows you’re not only a model, you’re a *good* one. That a woman doesn’t need that kind of shit in her life and if he wants to be a part of her life, he’ll knock that shit right off.
    If he tried to tell her she was no Naomi Campbell and he’d never heard of her, she’d just laugh, because he’s probably never heard of most models and he’s probably never heard of any of her friends who all made their living as models, but that doesn’t mean they’re not models.
    Then she’d rip into him about the Naomi Campbell crack and lay out the reality of “supermodels,” the rare models who are known by name to the public because they were lucky enough to catch the eye of someone who had influence in the industry. The main difference between Naomi Campbell and 99.9999…% of models is that they catch the right wave.

    And no, boyfriend of LW, my pal wasn’t jealous of the Naomi Campbells of the world. You might have never heard of her, but Edith Head and Bob Mackie did, so she wasn’t pining in the corner.

    So LW, do my pal proud and go out there and strut your stuff. Accept nothing but the best and give it all you’ve got.

    1. There are so many jobs for models outside of catwalk work – people really have no idea of the depth because they only ever see the high profile stuff. Even Heidi Klum worked in catalog shoots for several years before becoming well known.

  60. Your boyfriend’s treatment of you is shameful LW, and I’m so sorry that you have to put up with this crap. I hope you can cut this negativity out of your life for good very soon. Even though some of the contents of this letter made me sad and angry on your behalf, CA’s response and the positivity of commenters has been amazing to read. Continue to be your awesome selves, LW and awkwardeers.

  61. If the comparison with Naomi Campbell is for her ethnicity then really. Underlined. That boy is not your friend.
    If for naomi’s attitude, then ha! Roar on.
    If for her height, Kate Moss is shorter.
    Also, kind of funny hes comparing you to Naomi, like does he even know the names of models today?
    I found the word “local” telling…
    Small boy is right.

  62. I feel like we need some sort of CA ‘showcase’ post that’s just for people to share their hobbies/creative work/etsy store/portfolio and we can all check it out and tell each other how great we are for having passion and the like. A little bit of validation goes a long way 😊

  63. I don’t have anything to add that hasn’t been said already but hey, more validation can’t hurt 🙂 LW, you are great and I bet your art is great and frankly I don’t think your boyfriend is good enough for you.

  64. “Because I am quite old, it’s too late to walk the New York runways.”
    Good lord, if it’s normal in this industry thinks that a 30 year old is “quite old”…
    I agree with the Captain’s assessment that he has up to now viewed his occupation as a special thing for him alone. He was the wizard behind the curtain and now LW has pulled it back and revealed that he isn’t that special after all.

  65. I don’t know if he’s jealous. I do know that if he didn’t enjoy knocking you down emotionally, he wouldn’t do it.

  66. That guy. That guy is so jealous he can barely see straight. He is so jealous his feet are mired in cement. He is so jealous he can barely breathe.

  67. Also, even in the best-case scenario, if Boyfriend has many other excellent qualities and is just freaking out about this, and assuming he gets over it in relatively short order… I think “My modelling hobby/career/calling and your photography need to be separate things” is a plan that needs to happen.

    There are some hobbies and spaces I honestly wouldn’t want to share with my romantic associate. It would freak me out to have her join me, and I’d probably ask her to do it separately (not, like, pretend not to know me, but just go do your thing and I’ll do mine and we’ll meet up at lunch, and if you want a guide can I maybe set you up with a friend instead?)

  68. It sounds like boyfriend has delusions of being a modern-day Ricky Ricardo. ‘No, Lucy, I’m the only one who gets to work in this field! Stay home and do the dishes!’

    Thus, let’s all imagine LW as Lucy in one of my all-time favorite skits from that show. (Ricky has grudging ‘allowed’ Lucy to perform with him, without telling her in advance she’ll be wearing a bull costume and basically serving as a prop for his matador shtick. She finds out and…does this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zh0y80d5QZk )

  69. I am having flashbacks to the time when I told my then boyfriend that I was considering pursuing a career in pharmacy. He scoffed, “That’s dumb! That’s a dying field! It’s all gonna be done by robots!” I was able to correct him on those facts, but I never quite got over the hurt that his immediate reaction was to tell me my dream was worthless. It definitely put another nail into the coffin of our dying relationship. Even he now remembers that moment with great chagrin.

    Compare that with my now boyfriend. We had recently begun dating when I applied for my first job in a pharmacy. He was like, “Of course they’ll hire you! You’ll be great!” And when it came time to actually apply for pharmacy school, he was like, “Of course you’ll get in! You’ll be great!” And now every semester when I’m stressing out about finals, he’s always like, “Of course you’ll pass all your tests! You’re super amazing! You’re smarter than I’ll ever be! You’ll do great!” There are many reasons why this relationship is better than the last one, but his unwavering support of my interests and career goals is definitely one of them.

    You don’t need this guy, LW. You’ll feel so much lighter without him dragging you down with his “reality checks.”

  70. Another long-time lurker coming out of the woodwork to say how much I love this response. LW, you and your work sound amazing. People want to work with you, and support you, and book you! You are enjoying yourself and putting your heart into what you do! You’re DOING THIS THING.

    This bit of the response honestly made me tear up a bit:
    “He is a small man with a limited vision and a smaller heart. You, on the other hand, are a g.d. Valkyrie.”

    Damn right. The people who love you should be your biggest cheerleaders and supporters. I mean sure, you want to be able to share things with your partner(s) openly and honestly, but he’s not being ‘honest’, he’s being deliberately unkind. People who are on your team don’t spend their time running you down and making you feel small. Your partner is not on your team, and I am so sorry.

    You are a freakin’ boss, and I wish you all the very best with your modelling and photoshoot design and whatever exciting projects are on the horizon for you.

  71. I don’t always jump to DTMF (dump the mudder fugger) but, LW, DTMF.
    I could MAYBE understand if BF was negative due to anxiety about logistics “how will I see you if you’re always doing shows on top of your job?!” or whatever (still not great, but not necessarily unfixable). But BF is just cutting you down for no reason, unasked for, for things that are irrelevant for what you are already doing! BF should be happy for you and your passion and keep thoughts like “oh but this will never meet X level of what I consider success” to themselves, if they have them at all. A good partner should say “let’s see how far this goes, you are awesome! Congrats!” Uhg. Sorry LW bf just does not seem like a good partner and I don’t know that it’s possible for someone doing that to change their stripes in any acceptable timeframe.

  72. Do you need his approval? No. Do you deserve to be around people who share in your happiness and celebrate it? 100% yes. You deserve people in your life who will look at your work and say, “wow, you’re amazing!” People who aren’t threatened by your powerful self. Go find those people.

    Ditch the little fish in the little bowl and swim the sea.

  73. Yeah my ex bf told me in college I shouldn’t pursue theatre because I’ll never make a living at it. I listened to him. I cut way back on effort to theatre, only minored in it, didn’t act in anything. After we broke up, the first thing I did was act in a play. I nailed it! I remembered how that whole process brings me such joy. I cannot forgive him for killing my creative joy for so long.
    Now? I don’t do theatre as my career but I side-gig theatre things AND I GET PAID WHEN I DO! It gives me joy and some money. You keep being awesome. Let him go live his small life elsewhere.

  74. There are seven billion people in the world, and only one of them is Naomi Campbell. And only one of them is YOU, dear LW, and it sounds like you’re kicking it in your own way! You do your thing, because it sounds like you’re great at it, and you clearly enjoy it. Anyone who isn’t prepared to enjoy it with you, shouldn’t get to share it with you.

  75. Jennifer! Wonderful response, but I also wrote to say — what a great film you made! I had no idea you were a filmmaker! I’ve been following your blog periodically from time to time, and I love it. And I love even more that you are a talented film lady. Cheers to you!

  76. I did some modeling back in my 20’s for a couple of Gothic/Industrial designers, and for photographer friends who wanted to build their portfolios. I was only paid minimum wage or got clothes (and/or photos) in exchange. So I didn’t consider myself to be a professional. Getting up there in the spotlight with all eyes on me and everyone cheering for me was awesome! They also used my photos for flyers for a couple of Gothic/Industrial club nights, for their ads in the local alternative papers, on their website, and on their merchandise (postcards, keychains, magnets, that sort of thing). Most of the models, including me, didn’t have the stereotypical “Goth” look *or* the willowy mainstream model look. He was really able to bring out and showcase the beauty in all of us! It sounds like you’re more successful than I was with it, and I hope you enjoy it! Having a niche that works for you as a sidegig is perfectly fine, and the Naomi Campbell dig was uncalled for.

  77. Feel you hard on this, LW. I’ve done modeling before and the industry can be such a terrible, terrible cesspool of misogyny. I’m perfectly self-aware, thanks; I never needed anyone to tell me I wasn’t pretty enough to be a model, or tall enough, or whatever. I did (do) it because it’s fun and I like the results and it was a good source of income — and I was never booked like you are, at that. Your boyfriend is straight up not listening to your needs and I hate to see that! In my experience dude photogs are kind of taught to be shitty to models so I don’t know that that’s going to change. Not gonna tell you to DTMFA but just wanted to let you know I’m in your corner here.

  78. I think I’m going to make it as a painter and I’m in my 40s with no gallery. I think I’ve got it and I’m going to keep going after it until someone else sees what I see. I hustle a few paintings a year for a few dollars but the selling part is not as important to me as the making part. My husband is encouraging and would never tell me “You’re no Andrew Wyeth!”

    Sometimes I think about that though. I’m no Andrew Wyeth and I never will be but Hopper was no Whistler, who was no VanGogh, who was no Julio Reyes, who is no Kara Walker. Nobody is all the great artists but we can all be something special. We’re all different. We all have something to contribute, though, and the art world has room enough for all of us.

    If the status quo is young and tall (which the commenters above belie) then you can and should try to change the status quo to make it fit you. That’s a good thing. Even if it’s a tiny change you can help it happen.

    My husband is in his 50s and last year took up acting. He’s gotten every audition he’s gone to and has even earned a solid 3 figures for it. It’s an adjustment in our lifestyle (of sloth) when he’s gone for rehearsal a lot but I’m proud of him. He’s proud of me when I sell a painting. We support each other. We’re no Stieglitz/O’Keefe but that’s not even the point of doing it! The point is to participate in the magic that happens when brush touches paper or foot hits stage. Even the tiniest most obscure corner of the art world contains magic and we are ALL allowed a taste.

    I leave you with a 6LACK lyric “Remember that I tried to build ya, now I ain’t worried ’bout shit” and wish you well on your journey down the runway.

  79. This person is trash. You deserve someone who will support your dreams. Besides, isn’t Kate Moss 5’7″?

  80. Chiming in here–my first story was accepted at 31, and another at 32. The latter, I waited to tell my ex personally while we were on a date, because for me, it was a Big Effing Deal.

    I got a high-five and a subject change. Not as soul-crushing as your boyfriend, LW, but it was real demoralizing, especially since it was the most enthusiastic response I would get from him during our relationship, even though I’d go on to get Honorable Mentions for a writing contest with thousands of entrants. After we broke up, I stopped writing for a year.

    You deserve a partner who will support your hopes and dreams, not crap on them. Break free of this one, LW. You can do better.

  81. *applauds as loudly as humanly possible*

    I don’t have anything to add to Cap’s advice, really but I just wanted to say- LW, you are awesome. This guy doesn’t appreciate that and you deserve someone that does.

  82. You have shows booked until November.


    You do not need to have your boyfriend believe that you can be a model, because, you are already, in fact, a model.

    I know the Captain already said as much, but…I think it bears repeating.

  83. That look on Stanley Tucci’s face? It’s one I see quite often, from the partner I found in midlife. I’ll be sitting there reading and look up and he’s gazing at me all Tucci-like: “I *really* love you” or “You’re so beautiful.”

    For the record: I’m not at all conventionally beautiful. But I *feel* beautiful when I’m with him. THIS IS HOW PEOPLE WHO LOVE YOU SEE YOU. Your boyfriend doesn’t want to see you in this way because he feels threatened: by your successes, by the fact that he can’t set the narrative for your life (“Models are tall, so you can’t be one”), whatever.

    I agree with the Captain and everyone else who said that you ARE a model. As in, you are following your dream. If your boyfriend can’t at least be happy for you, then please ask yourself what about this relationship makes it worth keeping.

    Oh, and go on rocking the runway and believing in yourself.

  84. Apologies if this has already been said.

    I am bouncing up and down at the the thought of an older, shorter model. Add fatter to that list, and I’ll explode with glee.

    Seriously, New York, London, Paris, Milan, and all the other fashion icon places have their models, that represent only a very teeny, tiny, small, bitty, wee portion of society. The rest of us want representation, too!

    More and more fashion designers are starting to create and market fashion for people who are not six-foot five thin people under the age of twenty. More and more people are recognizing the beauty in age, and varying shapes and sizes of bodies. More and more people are recognizing the beauty in different types of bodies, such as those in wheelchairs, or sporting prosthetics.

    You are part of a gloriously growing trend! I used to hate fashion, when I was young, because there was not any hope that I’d ever see anyone who looked even vaguely like me. Now, I get to see, on very rare, but progressively more common, occasions, someone who looks kind of Me-ish. You are doing this for someone out there and making them so happy!


    In short, your boyfriend is a fool, who is stuck on the old-fashioned, exclusionary fantasy that only those who fit “the mold” can possibly succeed, AND that there is only one form of “success” in the fashion world.


    You deserve so much better, LW!

  85. Okay, full disclosure, I’m not a model, but I am a dancer, and our worlds aren’t that different. 1) You sound like an awesome person and 2) what an inspiring story, that you’ve gotten this far with such a late start and are obviously having the time of your life! I wish there were more stories like yours; the world would be a more encouraging place.

    On the boyfriend front, it’s not promising. EVEN IF he had the purest possible motives (which I think is doubtful, but hey), there are so, so, so many better ways to communicate concern for someone in a difficult field. I’ve had teachers have those conversations with me, and some did a great job and some did a terrible job. IF you think he really has altruistic motives (I’m not getting that vibe, but anyway) it’s time for a real come to Jesus talk about how to support you. If you think his motives are anything other than pure love and concern, IMO this relationship doesn’t have a good future ahead. You deserve someone who is unapologetically supportive of you and who is your biggest fan.

  86. THAT’S how we look at the people we love when they shine at doing the thing they love.

    I knew Reese Witherspoon’s marriage was over the second I saw her now ex-husband’s face when she won the Oscar for “Walk the Line.”

  87. OMG. I have been a model as a side gig for years, and the culture of RUN THE MODEL DOWN is RAMPANT in photography. They want us to feel as desperate and inadequate as possible to keep us under control and willing to accept their terms.

    One of my very first fashion shoots was for a design student at RISD. She criticized EVERYTHING about me. The ones that stuck with me were “For a small person, those are some thighs on you,” and “Wow, your rib cage is like three whole sizes bigger than than it should be.” I’m a pretty self-confident person, and what kept running through my head the whole time I was working was, “If you hate everything about me, WHY DID YOU HIRE ME?”

    And then it occurred to me. She DIDN’T. She knew what I looked like. She had all my measurements beforehand. If those measurements (like MY APPARENTLY FREAKISHLY WIDE RIB CAGE) offended her, she could have gone with anyone more to her liking. She was just trying to make me feel bad about myself.

    People do that to control you, not just in modeling. To make you desperate for any scrap of approval or validation or affection they deign to toss you. If somebody does that, they’re afraid of how great you are and trying to keep you small. ASHCAN THAT LOSER.

  88. Of course you’re not Naomi Campbell. You’re you, and you don’t need to be Naomi Campbell, because she already exists. The world needs YOU. If your boyfriend were being honest but kind, he would give you practical advice that you could act on, rather than criticisms you can’t. You can’t change your height, your birthdate, or whatever arbitrary thing he thinks disqualifies you from being a model, but you’re doing the most important part of any pursuit- you’re actually doing it! Your boyfriend, as a professional in the field, should know that there’s a lot of models who are challenging the industry’s standards and are killing it (Madeline Stuart, Tess Holliday, Alice Delall (who’s 5’5), Daphne Selfe (who’s 85) the list goes on). And you seem pretty realistic about your dream, but you’ve also tempered your realism with some hope. You are a model. You work hard. And you’re changing your industry.

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